West Valley Demonstration Project

The late Sen. Patrick Moynihan
The late Sen. Patrick Moynihan
visits West Valley

In 1980, Congress passed the West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) Act [PDF], which directed the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct a high-level waste solidification and decommissioning demonstration project, in cooperation with New York State, at the Western New York Nuclear Service Center.

The Act directed the DOE to:

  • Carry out a demonstration project to solidify the high–level radioactive waste in the underground tanks
  • Develop containers suitable for the disposal of the solidified high-level waste
  • Transport the solidified waste to a federal repository for permanent disposal
  • Dispose of low–level and transuranic waste
  • Decontaminate and decommission the facilities used in the solidification process

Solidification of the high level waste was completed in 2002. More than 98 percent of the liquid HLW was removed from the underground waste storage tanks and solidified into 19,000 drums of cemented low–level waste and 275 high-level waste glass canisters.

The 19,000 drums of cemented low-level waste were successfully shipped to the Nevada Test Site for disposal, while the high-level waste glass canisters, which are contained in stainless-steel containers, are stored in a shielded cell in the former reprocessing plant.

DOE is conducting Phase 1 decommissioning activities, including waste processing and shipping, asbestos removal, and planning for the removal of the massive, highly contaminated Main Plant Process Building. The critical path activity for removing the Main Process Building is the relocation of the 275 high-level radioactive waste glass canisters to a new dry-cask interim storage facility that has been constructed on site. As of January 2016, 20 canisters have been relocated to the interim storage pad. Relocation of the remaining canisters is anticipated to be completed by January 2017.

As required by the WVDP Act, on November 3, 1980, DOE and NYSERDA entered into a Cooperative Agreement [PDF|4.42 MB] for carrying out its directive.

West Valley Plant
West Valley Plant

Under the Agreement:

  • DOE has the lead and controlling role in managing the WVDP, while NYSERDA participates on the WVDP and maintains the balance of the WNYNSC property surrounding the WVDP Premises.
  • DOE has exclusive use and possession of approximately 175 acres of the WVDP, including all the major facilities, with the exception of the SDA.
  • The Agreement also stipulates that the federal government will pay 90 percent of the WVDP costs with New York paying the remaining 10 percent. As of January 2016, New York State has spent over $300 million toward the WVDP’s completion, making it the only state in the nation contributing to the cost of high-level waste cleanup.
  • NYSERDA's participation helps keep the State informed of planned work and progress while ensuring that New York's interests are met.

On August 17, 2010, a Consent Decree [PDF|2.3 MB] was entered in federal court resolving many of the claims from a December 2006 lawsuit that NYSERDA, New York State and NYSDEC filed against the United States and the DOE. The settlement resolves issues over the allocation of respective responsibilities for the cost associated with cleanup activities at the Site.