west valley DPSource: Olean Times Herald | Rick Miller | March 28, 2015

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., earlier this week pressed the new Department of Energy official overseeing the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York State cleanup to push for full funding.

Charging that the cleanup program has been shortchanged for years, Schumer on Wednesday met with Monica Regalbuto, nominated to head the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, to ask for restoration of funds needed for the cleanup.

The West Valley cleanup has been ongoing since 1980. In the first phase of the project, more than 600,000 gallons of highly radioactive liquid waste from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods by Nuclear Fuels Services Inc., which closed the plant in 1976, were solidified.

The next phase of the cleanup is the removal of 275 canisters of radioactive glass. Those canisters will be loaded into concrete casks for storage at the West Valley site until they can be removed to a national high-level waste repository.

Currently, the contractor hired to oversee the cleanup, CH2M Hill, is working toward demolition of the Main Process Building so radioactive soil beneath it can be removed. The next phase of the cleanup will also address an underground plume of Strontium 90 that leaked from beneath the plant. Phase I studies are expected to determine whether underground tanks that held the liquid radioactive wastes will be removed in Phase II. Some DOE officials are urging the tanks be filled with grout and left in place.

The Department of Energy had agreed on a funding level of $75 million a year over 10 years beginning in 2008, but has fallen short over the past several years.

Schumer, in his meeting with Regalbuto, urged her to support the $75-million-a-year level recommended in the Final Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement of 2008.

In the 2016 federal budget, the Obama administration has asked for $61 million despite the DOE’s recommendation that funding remain at the $75 million level.

Schumer vowed to fight in the Senate for the $75 million allocation in 2016 and demanded the federal government not balk at its responsibility.

The West Valley Demonstration Project needs an allocation of at least $75 million per year for at least 10 years to complete the first phase of cleanup at the out‑of‑use nuclear reprocessing site, Schumer explained.

The project has been “continually underfunded over the past several years,” he added.

In 2008, the DOE issued an Environmental Impact Statement that said that $75 million per year in federal funding would be needed to begin cleaning at a more economically efficient pace.

“Each year since the Environmental Impact Statement was issued, the president has underfunded it in his budget requests — despite the fact that it is still an environmental risk to the residents of Western New York,” Schumer said.

Despite the DOE’s suggestion of $75 million per year, in 2015, the West Valley site only received $60 million for cleanup efforts; in 2014, it received $66 million; in 2013, it received $61 million; in 2012, it received $66 million; and in 2011, it received $59 million.

“Next year, in (fiscal year) 2016, the funding could drop to the $61 million that was proposed in the president’s budget unless Congress increases funding,” Schumer said.

“I met with the president’s nominee for the Office of Environmental Management and let her know in clear terms that we have not received a sufficient amount for West Valley cleanup and that we must fund the cleanup effort at $75 million this year — and in the years ahead,” Schumer said. “Each year that the West Valley Demonstration Project goes underfunded, the amount of time and money it will take to decontaminate and remove the waste at the site increases.”