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One of the most environmentally dangerous places in the country is about a mile north of where I live. Tons of radioactive waste remain at a site in West Valley, a small community in Western New York. A plant there was the only commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing facility ever to operate in the United States.

West Valley operated from 1966-72. During that span, 600,000 gallons of highly radioactive waste accumulated in an underground waste tank. Hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal funds have been spent to solidify that waste into 275 high-level waste glass “logs.” Those logs are stored in a shielded cell in the former reprocessing plant.

This timeline story from the Buffalo News provides the history and context much better than I can: (A little corner of hell)

A citizens watchdog group says radioactive and chemical wastes are flowing from the site into the nearby Cattaraugus Creek (which empties into Lake Erie, which empties into the Niagara River, which empties into Lake Ontario, which empties into the St. Lawrence River and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean). The report is dated a bit, but the essential facts are unchanged. (Scary, if not terrifying, stuff)

The state and federal governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to clean up the site, but instead of saying "clean up," I think it's more accurate to say West Valley is now marginally less dangerous. Hundreds of millions of dollars more, and quite possibly billions, need to be spent until everybody agrees that's the best that can be done. The site never will be cleaned up even if the definition of that phrase is stretched from here to Pluto.

A story this big, a story this old, has attracted attention from around the world—including attention from my local newspaper. The paper had a page 1 story today about another round of funding for the project. I think that's what the story was about. You be the judge. Here's the third paragraph from the story, the paragraph that sums up what's new:

Mr. Bembia said current plans call for the selection by DOE and NYSERDA of an Environmental Impact Statement contractor in 2017. A joint DOE/NYSERDA draft EIS would be available for review and comment. The joint DOE/NYSERDA Phase 2 final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement would be published in 2020 with a DOE Record of Decision and a [sic] NYSERDA Findings Statement.

Got it?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 1st, 2014 03:21 pm (UTC)
Clear as mud.

Scary stuff, indeed. How is it possible that they could initially store the stuff in a manner that allowed for the leaching? How?!?!?
Mar. 1st, 2014 03:25 pm (UTC)
For an answer, let's call on the noted nuclear physicist F.V. Zappa:

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe."
Mar. 1st, 2014 06:26 pm (UTC)
Government speak. Scary - we also have Hanford out here that is leaking into the Columbia River and out into the Pacific, which of course, meets up with the crap moving east from Fukushima. What a glowing world we all live in...
Mar. 1st, 2014 07:43 pm (UTC)
Hanford makes West Valley look like a garden spot.
Mar. 7th, 2014 04:38 pm (UTC)
West Valley is some scary stuff. I've covered the plant for years now and it's just more and more of that: government speak. Here's a fun factoid: if you visit the plant (to do a story on its lack of funding for clean-up, for example) they scan you for radioactive material before you're allowed to leave.

I've always wondered what would happen if I tested too high.
Mar. 7th, 2014 08:07 pm (UTC)
I can see you stuffing your pockets with plutonium on the way out.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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