Did you know that one of the most intensely radioactive sites in the world is located not far from Buffalo? Aside from its close proximity, the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site is also located upstream and upwind of Buffalo and the rest of NY, the Seneca Nation of Indians Territories, and Canada.
For years, activists and environmentalists have warned of the dangers found at the West Valley Nuclear Waste site, where highly radioactive nuclear power and weapons waste was reprocessed to extract plutonium and uranium. Now, there are additional fears that dangerous radioactivity could enter into our air, water, soil, food, etc., as a building – considered one of the most radioactive buildings at that site and across the country – is slated to be demolished in December 2021.
Without public pressure, the government will again choose the cheapest, not the safest, cleanup plan.
In advance of the demolition, The West Valley Action Network (WVAN), in collaboration with Partnership for the Public Good and the Western New York Environmental Alliance, will be hosting a workshop – Climate, Clean-up and Accountability at the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site – which they hope will enlighten people about the potential dangers.
Groups are calling for an enclosure during demolition and offsite real-time, publicly-reported radiation monitoring to see if radioactivity is getting out.
Radiation pollution a the West Valley site? The question is not if it happens, it’s when it happens. Therefore, the community needs to be diligent and vigilant when it comes to ensuring that the demolition is handled properly. After all, we’re not talking about a small nuclear burial site, we’re talking about “a site that has tons of radioactive waste that is dangerous now and will continue to be dangerous for thousands to millions of years.”
According to WVAN:
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.
WVAN is also calling for decisions to be made regarding the full cleanup of the site, along with extensively monitoring of the demolition, to be made available to the public in real time.
It should be known that one of the biggest flaws with the West Valley Nuclear site is that it escaped being bound to any major Federal and NYS environmental laws and regulations, which were passed years after the site was chosen and built. That means that the site itself is far more dangerous than other sites that were constructed at later dates, which were beholden to environmental laws or standards. This shortcoming is now compounded by years of deterioration, as well as potential threats presented by climate change.
The workshop, the sixth and final one in the series, Climate, Clean-up and Accountability at the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site in 2021 will be held virtually, is free and is open to the public.
Barbara Warren, RN, MS, and Executive Director, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, will review findings of reports on the site. She will detail the plans for the North and South Plateaus, waste tanks, and disposal areas.
The West Valley Action Network formed as individuals and groups in 2009 to work for the full clean up of the West Valley Nuclear Waste site in West Valley NY, Cattaraugus County, draining north into Erie County and the Great Lakes. The current concerns are summarized at www.westvalleyaction.org
Previous workshops include: The History of the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site, Protections Needed for WNY during the Demolition of the Most Radioactive Building, and Indigenous People for a Nuclear Free Future.
Additional reading: Out of Sight, In Our Water?