Environmental Impact

The public comment period for the "Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Decommissioning and/or Long-Term Stewardship at the West Valley Demonstration Project & Western NY Nuclear Service Center [DOE/EIS-0226D (Revised)]" has now closed. Comments are being considered and responses will be included in the Final EIS.

Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Decommissioning and/or Long-Term Stewardship at the West Valley Demonstration Project and Western New York Nuclear Service Center, DOE/EIS-0226-R (Decommissioning and/or Long-Term Stewardship EIS)

The West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) Act (Public Law 96-368), signed into law on October 1, 1980, establishes the West Valley Demonstration Project, to demonstrate technologies for solidifying liquid high-level radioactive waste found at the Western New York Nuclear Service Center (WNYNSC or Center) for disposal.  Per the WVDP Act, the Secretary of Energy shall:

solidify, in a form suitable for transportation and disposal, the high level radioactive waste at the Center by vitrification or by such other technology which the Secretary determines to be the most effective for solidification
develop containers suitable for the permanent disposal of the high level radioactive waste solidified at the Center
as soon as feasible, transport, in accordance with applicable provisions of law, the waste solidified at the Center to an appropriate Federal repository for permanent disposal in accordance with applicable licensing requirements, dispose of low level radioactive waste and transuranic waste produced by the solidification of the high level radioactive waste under the project
· decontaminate and decommission the tanks and other facilities of the center in which the high level radioactive waste solidified under the Project was stored
· the facilities used in the solidification of the waste, and
· any material and hardware used in connection with the project

in accordance with such requirements as the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission may prescribe.
The U. S. Department of Energy assumed operational control of a portion of the Center from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) in 1982 to complete these tasks. 

In 1987, the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) agreed, in a Stipulation of Compromise that settled a lawsuit filed in Federal Court by local citizens (86-1052-C, western district of New York), to evaluate disposal of Class A and Class B/C waste generated as a result of activities of the DOE at the WVDP in a closure EIS, to evaluate erosion impacts, and to initiate the EIS process by the end of calendar year 1988.  On December 30, 1988, DOE published a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register to prepare an EIS for completion of the WVDP. NYSERDA published a similar notice in the State Environmental Notice Bulletin on January 11, 1989.  After publication of these notices, public comments on the scope and content of the EIS were received in letters and during public scoping meetings.  In 1990, DOE and NYSERDA entered into an agreement to prepare a joint EIS that addressed both the WVDP completion and closure of WNYNSC.

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Completion of the West Valley Demonstration Project and Closure or Long-Term Management of Facilities at the Western New York Nuclear Service Center (also called the Cleanup and Closure Draft EIS) (DOE/EIS-0226-D) was issued for public comment in 1996, but a Preferred Alternative was not identified, and the Final EIS was not issued.  Instead, DOE and NYSERDA believed it was important to defer selection of a Preferred Alternative until more studies and analyses were completed and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decommissioning criteria for the WVDP were issued.  The NRC issued decommissioning criteria for the WVDP in 2002.

On March 26, 2001, DOE and NYSERDA issued an NOI in the Federal Register announcing their plan to revise the strategy for completing the 1996 Cleanup and Closure Draft EIS and to prepare a separate EIS on decontamination of WVDP facilities and related waste management activities.  This revised strategy would serve to address the remaining activities required under the West Valley Demonstration Project Act in two phases (and two EISs) – the first covering short-term, off-site waste disposal activities (the Waste Management EIS) and the second covering longer-term closure and stewardship activities.  The Waste Management EIS was completed in December 2003, and the related Record of Decision (ROD) issued in June 2005.

In March 2003, DOE and NYSERDA issued Notices in the Federal Register and the New York State Environmental Notice Bulletin, respectively, of their intent to prepare this Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Decommissioning and/or Long-Term Stewardship at the West Valley Demonstration Project and Western New York Nuclear Service Center (Decommissioning and/or Long-Term Stewardship EIS).  This revised Draft EIS updates the 1996 Cleanup and Closure Draft EIS and analyzes site-wide alternatives for management or decommissioning of facilities and property at the WNYNSC.  The DOE and NYSERDA are joint lead agencies for the preparation of this EIS.  The following potential questions and answers are provided:


Questions & Answers:

Q1.  Why are DOE and NYSERDA preparing an EIS?
A1.   DOE is required by the WVDP Act to decontaminate and decommission the waste storage tanks and facilities used in the solidification of high-level radioactive waste, and any material and hardware used in connection with the WVDP, in accordance with such requirements as the NRC may prescribe. As discussed above, the NRC has prescribed its License Termination Rule as the decommissioning criteria for the WVDP.  Therefore, DOE needs to determine the manner that facilities, materials, and hardware for which the Department is responsible are managed or decommissioned in accordance with applicable Federal and state requirements.  To this end, DOE needs to determine what, if any, material or structures for which it is responsible would remain on-site, and what, if any, institutional controls, engineered barriers, or stewardship provisions would be needed.  In order to determine the manner in which DOE will complete its responsibilities under the WVDP Act, this EIS is being prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and DOE implementing regulations (40 CFR 1500 and 10 CFR 1021).

NYSERDA needs to determine the manner in which facilities and property for which it is responsible, including the State-Licensed Disposal Area (SDA), will be managed or decommissioned, in accordance with applicable Federal and state requirements.  To this end, NYSERDA needs to determine what, if any, material or structures for which it is responsible would remain on-site and what, if any, institutional controls, engineered barriers, or stewardship provisions would be needed. NYSERDA must comply with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) as part of its decisionmaking process for management of the WNYNSC and, therefore, this EIS was prepared to satisfy the requirements of SEQRA.  NYSERDA is the lead New York State agency for preparing the SEQRA documents for West Valley and will submit Public Notices and issue its Statement of Findings under SEQRA in parallel with DOE’s publication of Notices and its Record of Decision (ROD) under NEPA.

Q2.  How much is left at West Valley to be cleaned up?
A2.  The primary facilities at the WNYNSC are a former irradiated nuclear fuel reprocessing plant with four associated underground radioactive waste storage tanks and two radioactive waste disposal areas.  The EIS will also evaluate levels of contamination in the soil and the combined effects of chemical and radiological pollution.  Additionally, the EIS will evaluate two other areas of contamination, a groundwater plume primarily contaminated with Strontium-90 and a surface soil contamination area known as the Cesium Prong.

Q3.  What has DOE done since 1996 on the EIS?
A3.  DOE has collected additional information on structural geology, local fractures, and seismicity; conducted design evaluations for potential engineering approaches for decommissioning; updated and revised disposal area inventory reports; developed and refined improved methods for analyzing erosion and groundwater flow and transport; consulted with a Citizen Task Force to receive input on the nature of a Preferred Alternative; and conducted workshops to refine methods for long-term performance assessment.   

Additionally, DOE worked intensively for over a year with the lead and cooperating agencies through the Core Team Process to resolve technical issues impeding progress on the EIS.  Further, since September 2007, representatives of the State of New York and the Federal government have been meeting an effort to resolve issues pertaining to financial and stewardship responsibilities as part of a formal mediation process

Additional factors impacting the completion of the NEPA process at West Valley included: 1) DOE’s 1997 programmatic EIS on the management and disposal of radioactive and hazardous wastes, which provides, among other things, the opportunity for centralized disposal of low-level radioactive waste and mixed low-level radioactive waste at various DOE facilities; and 2) the issuance of NRC’s Policy Statement on Decommissioning criteria for the WVDP. 

Q4.    How does DOE envision the eventual cleanup and remediation?
A4.  DOE can not pre-suppose the outcome of the EIS.  The EIS and resulting Record of Decision will determine how cleanup will be conducted at the WVDP and WNYNSC. 

Q5.  What alternatives will be considered in the West Valley EIS?
A5.  DOE will evaluate alternatives for the disposition of radiological facilities and support buildings, remediation of the impacted environment and disposal of all resulting waste at approved sites, with the goal of protecting human health and environmental quality.  Currently, the alternatives as refined through the public scoping process and discussions with the Core Team, that will be evaluated in the Decommissioning and/or Long-Term Stewardship EIS , are:

The Sitewide Removal Alternative Under this alternative, all site facilities would be removed. Environmental media would be decontaminated or removed from the site.  All radioactive, hazardous, and mixed waste would be characterized, packaged as necessary, and shipped offsite for disposal.  The Sitewide Removal Alternative includes temporary onsite storage for the vitrified high-level radioactive waste canisters while waiting for a Federal waste repository to open.  Since this alternative is estimated to require several decades to be completed, it is conceivable that the canisters could be shipped offsite during this period.  The entire WNYNSC would be available for release for unrestricted use. The Sitewide Removal Alternative is one type of bounding alternative that would remove facilities and contamination so that the site could be reused with no restrictions.  The NRC-licensed portion of the site would meet the NRC License Termination Rule (10 CFR 20.1402).  The SDA would meet similar State criteria. Residual hazardous contaminants would meet applicable State and Federal standards. A final status survey performed in accordance with Multi-Agency Radiation Survey and Site Investigation Manual (MARSSIM) and RCRA guidance would demonstrate that the remediated site meets the standards for unrestricted release, which would be confirmed by independent verification surveys.
· The phased Decisionmaking Alternative(Preferred Alternative) – Under this alternative, the
decomissioning would be completed in two phases:
Phase 1 decisions would include removal of the Main Plant Process Building, Vitrification Facility, and 01-14 Building, the source area of the North Plateau Groundwater Plume, and the lagoons and the associated structures. No decomissioning or long-term managment decisions would be made for the Wast Tank Farm and its supporting facilities, the Contruction and Demolition Debris Landfill, the Licensed Disposal Area (NDA). The SDA would continue under active management consistent with its permit requirements, for up to 30 more years.  Phase 1 activities would also include additional characterization of site contamination and studies to provide information to support additional evaluations to determine the technical approach to be used to complete the decommissioning.
Phase 2 would complete the decommissioning or long-term management decisionmaking, following the approach determined through the additional evaluations to be the most appropriate.
  During Phase 1, DOE would assess the results of site-specific studies as they become available, along with any other emerging information such as applicable technology development.  In consultation with the joint lead and cooperating agencies on this EIS, DOE would determine whether the new information warrants a supplemental EIS or other NEPA documentation  prior to further decisionmaking. Council on Environmental Quality and DOE NEPA implementing regulations at 40 CFR 1502.9(c) and 10 CFR 1021.314(a), respectively, require a supplemental EIS if:

The agency makes substantial changes in the proposed action that are relevant to environmental concerns; or
There are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.
  It is unclear whether a supplemental EIS is needed, DOE would prepare a Supplement Analysis in accordance with 10 CFR 1021.314(c) and make this analysis and resulting determination available to the public. Subsequent to appropriate NEPA review, DOE would issue a Record of Decision (ROD) for Phase 2 no later than 30 years after the Phase 1 ROD has been issued.

In addition to DOE, NYSERDA would also assess results of site-specific studies during Phase 1, along with other information, to inform its decision on the SDA and other areas of the Center.
The No Action Alternative – Under the No Action Alternative, no actions toward decommissioning would be taken.  The No Action Alternative would involve the continued management and oversight of the remaining portion of the WNYNSC and all facilities located on the WNYNSC property as of the starting point of this EIS. Evaluation of the potential impacts due to failure of institutional controls after 100 years will also be included.



Inquiries? Contact:
Sonja Allen
West Valley Demonstration Project
10282 Rock Springs Road
West Valley, NY 14171-9799
Phone: (716)942-2152

Information is also available in the WVDP Public Reading Rooms.
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