THE WEST VALLEY ACTION NETWORK
Diane D'Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, describes what's at stake at the West Valley nuclear site in 2020-2021 and years to come.
WVAN is seeking a full clean up of the complex West Valley nuclear and hazardous waste site. The site is 30 miles south of Buffalo, less than 25 miles upstream of the Seneca Nation of Indians Cattaraugus Territory and it threatens the water, fish, the surrounding regions in Western New York and Canada and the entire downstream Great Lakes watershed. It affects state and federal taxpayers that bear the site’s economic burden.
The site has tons of radioactive waste that is dangerous now and will continue to be dangerous for thousands to millions of years…waste from reprocessing nuclear power and weapons irradiated (spent) fuel and other nuclear activities. The buried waste is destined to leak. Government and independent studies predict major erosion and very high radiation doses to unsuspecting future generations. The WVAN is coordinated by the Indigenous Women’s Initiatives, Citizens' Environmental Coalition, and Nuclear Information & Resource Service, with growing numbers of individuals and groups.
We are at a critical juncture. In 2010, the US and NYS governments chose to defer for 10 more years the major final decision on clean up at West Valley. During this ongoing decade, studies will be done to justify “cleanup” or “no cleanup” in 2020. We are watch-dogging the studies. A supposedly independent panel is being set up to oversee several studies of the site erosion, radiation and other issues. The panel will oversee researchers who will do each study. The “independent” panel members, the researchers, the contractor and the study designs will have major influence on whether long-lasting radioactive waste stays buried or is dug up with effort to isolate.
The physical work at the site includes demolition and removal of the old, contaminated reprocessing building that still holds and shields tons of the most intensely radioactive waste. That long-lasting waste will be moved to a spot outside, near the road and stored in metal casks designed to last only 50 years. The main reason West Valley nuclear reprocessing never restarted after ending in 1972 was the discovery of high earthquake risk! Now high level waste will be moved from the shielded building to sit outside near the road in 50 year casks. More high and so-called “low-level” radioactive waste remains buried underground in unlined trenches, pits and old tanks.
Public participation is essential. You are needed and invited to join in the efforts to get the safest, best clean up possible. Without public pressure, the government will again choose the cheapest, not the safest, cleanup plan. Only by working together with many organizations and local and state governments can we can create the political power needed for a full cleanup, and obtain the necessary federal funds.
This project is partially funded by: