Where is the West Valley nuclear waste site?
The waste site is in the Town of Ashford, in Cattaraugus County, about 30 miles south of Buffalo.
Brief history of the site
The site was operated by a company called Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) as a nuclear fuel reprocessing center from 1966 to 1972, and accepted radioactive waste for disposal until 1975. In 1976, after changes in safety and environmental regulations, NFS determined that it was too costly to comply with the regulations, and left the site to the government. During the operation of the plant, 640 metric tons of spent reactor fuel was processed, resulting in 660,000 gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste.
Dangerous contamination remains
While NFS only reprocessed nuclear fuel at the site for six years, it left a legacy of toxic contamination that we have to contend with far into the future. At least 250 acres of the 3,345-acre site are heavily contaminated with dangerous nuclear and hazardous wastes, many of which will be radioactive for tens of thousands of years, and some for millions of years. According to the state funded, independent study entitled "The Real Costs of Cleaning up Nuclear Wastes," there is no safe level of exposure to radioactive waste – every exposure increases the risk of serious adverse health impacts, including cancer, reproductive disorders, and neurological effects.
Leaving the waste buried at the site threatens public health, the environment, and our economy
The site has been plagued with problems from the start, including leakage of radioactive waste in several areas. A significant underground plume of radioactive elements is spreading through groundwater. The waste site is on a plateau, which is highly susceptible to erosion. Scientists recognize that over time erosion will lead to release of buried toxic waste. The site is in the Great Lakes watershed, and leaks of waste threaten drinking water, public health, wildlife, and billion dollar industries such as fishing and tourism. The safest and most cost-effective option in the long run is to excavate and clean up the entire site as soon as possible! Read an independent study on cleanup options and costs, entitled "The Real Costs of Cleaning up Nuclear Wastes."
CCE’s Brian Smith speaks at press conference in front of NYSERDA office, along with “cleanup crew” calling for full cleanup of West Valley.
Proposed plan from State and Federal Agencies fails to protect Great Lakes and public health
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) released a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for cleanup of the site on December 5, 2008. The draft DEIS fails to protect public health and the environment from dangerous radioactive waste. Unfortunately, the DOE and NYSERDA recommend cleaning up only about 1% of the radioactivity now, and waiting 30 years before deciding what to do with the rest of the dangerous radioactive waste. The public comment period on the DEIS ended on September 8, 2009.
CCE and our members weighed in heavily during the public comment period in favor of the full sitewide removal cleanup option. While we await the release of the final environmental impact statement, CCE continues to advocate for a full cleanup of West Valley nuclear waste site.
Letter from members of the NYS delegation to DOE, calling for full clean up of West Valley, February 26, 2010
Sign on letter on the West Valley DEIS from CCE and coalition partners.
updated by bsmith 3/1/10