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 (WNYNSC).

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

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 Project, while NYSERDA participates on the Project and maintains the balance of the WNYNSC property surrounding the Project Premises.
  • DOE has exclusive use and possession of approximately 175 acres of the Project, including all the major facilities, with the exception of the State-Licensed Disposal Area.
  • 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 Project’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.

Progress to Date:

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, have been removed from the former reprocessing plant and are now located on an interim storage pad awaiting final disposal at a federal repository.

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. Demolition of the vitrification facility, where over 600,000 gallons of high-level waste were solidified, is currently underway. Completion of the vitrification facility demolition is expected in spring 2018, with demolition of the main plant process building to follow.