Issues & Advocacy

Published on February 19th, 2018 | by GrowWNYAdmin


Dig It Up!

Upcoming Speaker: Alan Lockwood, MD

Professor Emeritus of Neurology University at Buffalo

Senior Scientist Physicians for Social Responsibility

Presentation followed by Panel Discussion to learn how to make comments at EIS Scoping Hearings

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Burchfield Penney Art Center at 7:00 PM

1300 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo across from Albright Knox Art Gallery

The Department of Energy and NYSERDA are holding SCOPING HEARINGS March 19, 20, and 21, 2018 to determine what will happen to the radioactive waste buried at West Valley.

We Demand Full Clean-up of the West Valley Nuclear Waste Facility

Submitted by: Lynda Schneekloth, Advocacy Chair

Western New Yorkers are demanding a full clean up of the West Valley Nuclear Waste Facility to remove all nuclear waste from the 3,338 acre site that is located 30 miles south of Buffalo. This site has a long and complicated history of ownership and management, but the fact is, that since 1966, the highly toxic radioactive waste remains on an erodible and unstable site causing a catastrophic risk to downstream communities like the Seneca Nation, Lake Erie/Niagara River communities like Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Lewiston.

The Department of Energy and NYSERDA are proposing to conduct the final Supplemental EIS to forge a final determination of what to do with this nuclear material. The community must have a strong say in what happens as it is our waters that are at risk of radioactive contamination. These Scoping Hearings will be on March 19-21, 2018. (more information to come)

We are beginning a series of short pieces on the West Valley Nuclear Waste Facility and what we can do to influence the decision. We begin with an Another Voice editorial by Bill Townsend that appeared in the Buffalo News on January 8, 2018.


In 1959 I was taking my intro engineering geology course at the University of Michigan geology camp in the Tetons when they were selecting a site near Buffalo for a nuclear reprocessing project. Every Sunday my roommate Red Berenson (of hockey fame) and I hiked in the glacier-scoured Tetons. I could have told you then that the geological instability the West Valley site made it unsuitable for long term disposal of nuclear materials. In 1963, when the plant for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel was under construction, I finished my master’s degree and started a Cold War job, designing Minuteman missile equipment to withstand a first strike from nuclear bombs. By 1972, when I finished my Ph. D., they were closing down the failed West Valley project.

Half a century later, we are beginning the process of deciding what to do with the mess of nuclear waste in the ground at West Valley. The Department of Energy is responsible for most of this cleanup at West Valley, as it is around the country. It does this at a turtle’s pace, hampered by inadequate budgets. Delays in remediation drastically increase costs, as rusting tanks and barrels leak into the soil.
The General Accounting Office in February 2017 named the US Government’s environmental liabilities as one of the Government’s highest risk areas. Most of this risk falls within the Department of Energy. Some of the radioactive sites, such as Hanford in Washington State, are massive projects dating back to the World War II Manhattan project, others are relatively small, such as West Valley.

The West Valley Demonstration Project has already proved its value as a pilot project for the vitrification of high-level nuclear waste, a process now used on a large scale at Hanford. Our water is under threat from radioactive runoff moving toward streams that flow into Cattaraugus Creek, then Lake Erie, the source of our drinking water. The potential is there for large storms to cause a landslide, releasing nuclear waste that could contaminate our water. Perhaps West Valley might serve as a pilot project to research techniques for decontaminating soil and water.

Nuclear waste cleanup is in fact a job-creating infrastructure project, but it should not require special funding. All it requires is shifting a substantial chunk of the money in the proposed federal budget designated for “modernizing” the U.S. weapons arsenal to the best kind of modernization, a prompt, full cleanup of abandoned DOE facilities. This would protect the health of citizens, workers, the natural environment, and Great Lakes water. Not as glamorous as more bombs under the control of that big “Nuclear Button” on the President’s desk but much more practical for keeping us all safe.

William H. Townsend, Ph. D.
Retired Civil Engineer and real estate owner/manager
Snyder NY

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