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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: West Valley Demonstration Project USDOE in West Valley, New York

On this page:

  • Cleanup Status
  • Site Description
  • Contaminants at this Facility
  • Site Responsibility

Cleanup Status 

All RCRA Facility Investigation (RFI) reports have been finalized and approved. There are two areas of concern, the NRC-licensed disposal area (NDA) and the demolition debris landfill. All identified solid waste management units in which there has been a release, or a potential release, of hazardous constituents are under continuous monitoring. A removal action took place at the NDA to remediate the source of organics detected in adjacent groundwater. As an interim corrective measure (ICM), an interceptor trench was built in 1991, close to the NDA, to collect and monitor for any residual contamination that might move via the groundwater.

Since these actions took place, no hazardous contaminants have been detected at the interceptor trench. Groundwater monitoring in several other areas of the site has shown contaminant levels to be slightly elevated above the New York State standards, but these levels are still very low and not feasibly treated by further ICMs at this time. The liquid, high-level radioactive waste has been solidified in glass form (vitrified) and is being temporarily stored on-site in stainless steel canisters within a concrete vault until it can be shipped to an off-site repository. The vitrification unit has been scheduled for closure.

The West Valley Demonstration Project continues to decontaminate the main process plant. Although several rooms within this area cannot be accessed due to high radioactivity levels, these areas are currently stabilized and final corrective measures are being evaluated for all areas of concern as part of two on-going environmental impact statements (EISs). The first EIS (Waste Management) was issued in final form in December of 2003 and the Record of Decision (ROD) was issued in June, 2005. The second EIS (Site Decommissioning) is currently being drafted, but a firm release date for the Draft EIS has not yet been established. 

 Site Description

The U.S. Department of Energy's West Valley Demonstration Project is located at 10282 Rock Spring Road in West Valley, New York. This is a 167 acre, Department of Energy (DOE)-operated portion of a 3,300-acre site owned by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). See also the fact sheet on Western NY Nuclear Service Center. 

From 1966 to 1972, the plant operated as a commercial nuclear fuels recycling facility. In 1980, Congress passed a law, called the West Valley Demonstration Project Act (WVDP), authorizing DOE to use this site to demonstrate a method for solidifying 600,000 gallons of high-level liquid waste, and requiring them to decontaminate and decommission the facilities used in that effort. 

Contaminants at this Facility

In addition to the radiological threat, many chemicals were associated with the reprocessing of nuclear fuels. These include metals, as well as volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Empty spent nuclear fuel cladding, used equipment, protective clothing, contaminated soils, and other associated waste have been buried on-site. An investigation has indicated low-level subsurface soil and groundwater contamination at two units at the facility: the construction and demolition debris landfill (contaminants are 1,1-dichloroethane and 1,1,1-trichloroethane) and the NRC-licensed disposal area (NDA) (contaminants are tributyl phosphate and n-dodecane).

Responsibility at this Facility

RCRA 3008(h) Order on Consent (Docket No. II, RCRA 3008(h)-92-0202) issued in 1992 jointly by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and USEPA.

Facility has Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Interim Status pursuant to State of New York (6 NYCRR) Part 373 Standards for Owners and Operators of Hazardous Waste Facilities. On July 16, 2003, a Part 373 permit application was requested by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, to be submitted no later than January 31, 2004. Department of Energy (DOE) and New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) submitted part B application on December 27th, 2004.