[Image: atom (3kb)]
[Image: atom (3kb)]

Are we safer 73 years after the first use of atomic weapons at Hiroshima?

[Fukushima Reactor 3 explosion]


Crooked cleanup ... Asahi Shimbun details

2 rems per year allowed to prevent exodus

cleanup 'goal': < 500 mrem/yr above background

widespread soil removal planned

unanswered questions

interpreting the contamination reports

[Image: Caution radioactive waste (10 kb)]
[Image: West Valley burial trench (14 kb)]

West Valley nuclear waste site

An independent West Valley study shows nuclear waste removal to be
both the safest and the least costly long-term management option,
yet DOE and NYS commence new onsite erosion-control band-aids

The West Valley Site is located beside Buttermilk Creek, which feeds Cattaraugus Creek, which flows into Lake Erie south of Buffalo, NY; see site description and background. Opened in the 1960s, this physically most unsuitable waste storage location would never have been selected under the subsequent radioactive waste facility siting regulations (10 CFR Part 61).

May 2008 photo of the Buttermilk Cr. "Big Slide," from just north of Heinz Cr. mouth
[May 2008 photo of the Buttermilk Creek

All attempts to control erosion in this steep glacial till valley will inevitably fail, a fact highlighted by the excursionary weather events of August 2009; see August 2009 storm event photos and storm description. The ensuing discharge of wastes will poison the downstream waters of Cattaraugus Creek, Lake Erie, the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, all irreplaceable freshwater resources.

According to the recent State-sponsored Full Cost Accounting Study conducted by an independent panel of experts, the excavation and removal of all the radioactive wastes, including the two burial grounds, the tanks, and the lagoons, from the West Valley, NY nuclear site is both the safest and the least costly long-term management option for New Yorkers. Given the strength of these independent findings, one would expect the leadership in Albany to drop its former foolhardy acceptance of the federal Department of Energy's onsite waste management plans for West Valley.

Thus far, the DOE and irresponsible site owner NYSERDA (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a public authority corporation of New York State) are proceeding down the same irrational path at West Valley as was taken at the Niagara Falls Storage Site: applying onsite "interim action" band-aids in a shortsighted, attempt to contain the huge quantities of long-lived, dangerous radioactive wastes buried in the ground - this time at a uniquely unsuitable location on a rapidly eroding small plateau within a steep, unconsolidated glacial till filled valley.

New York State and federal DOE officials continue to back the indefinite onsite management of West Valley's wastes, not because it will save money and avert environmental disaster in the long term, but simply because it is less costly in current budget years. The public's expectation that the "Change We Can Believe In" Obama Administration would bring rigorous, scientific decision-making to federal activities has not been realized. Just the opposite has occurred; see Center for Public Integrity article. Even as West Valley threatens to come apart at the seams and contaminate precious Great Lakes drinking water supplies, a calculation has been made in both Albany and Washington that no immediate political harm will result from the continuation of DOE's unsound nuclear waste management practices.

post-August 2009 storms photo of the Buttermilk Creek "Big Slide," looking north
[post-August 2009 storms photo of the Buttermilk Creek

And so, the DOE and NYSERDA decided in April 2010 that the court-ordered (per DOE's settlement of the 1987 West Valley Coalition lawsuit), NEPA site-wide final waste disposition decision (EIS ROD) at West Valley, NY will be delayed indefinitely, while onsite waste management continues in the form of more stop-gap "interim actions," including installation of slurry walls at the NDA and the North Plateau, drying of the HLW tanks, and laying plastic covers over the burial grounds; see West Valley Coalition press release. This decision, widely regarded as a de facto final onsite waste management decision, violates the funadamental purpose of NEPA because it does not provide the required final site-wide waste disposition decision for the majority of the site's wastes before significant public monies are spent. It is simply a prologue to a future CERCLA ("Superfund") morass, following in the pattern of the NFSS and Tonawanda, and represents a colossal failure of State leadership, even surpassing the original siting blunder of a naive Nelson Rockefeller. This violation of NEPA will again result in the State and federal governments throwing away public money, this time in the billions, trying to maintain waste isolation at this untenable location. The DOE employed the same NEPA-evasion strategy at the Niagara Falls Storage Site in the 1980s, squandering tens of millions on a faulty "interim" tumulus that should never have been sited; see a detailed description of the NFSS story. And in 1997 Congress transferred remediation of the the Tonawanda Manhattan Project site from the AEA-authorized DOE to the unauthorized Army Corps of Engineers and called for the use of CERCLA to replace the established, more prescriptive AEA/NRC regulatory framework.

The Spitzer administration did not offer to join the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes in its unsuccessful 2005 complaint against DOE for completion of the legitimate 1996 site-wide EIS cleanup decision at West Valley. Instead the State joined DOE's "Core Team" and secretly planned this NEPA-illegitimate "interim end state" which addresses only a tiny fraction of the site's wastes, leaving completion of the legitimate 1987-court-ordered NEPA site-wide public review process at the whim of DOE, an unconscionable outcome for long-time public interest stakeholders.

Filling trench with drums and boxes of waste at the NRC-licensed Disposal Area, 1980s
[Drums and boxes of waste in the NRC-licensed Disposal Area, 1980s]

A 2006 lawsuit brought by NYS/NYSDEC/NYSERDA against the DOE was submitted to mediation and after six secret negotiating sessions between NYS and DOE a settlement was reached in June 2009 and set down in a Consent Decree. The terms of this consent decree, signed and released by the Buffalo office of the NYS Attorney General, clearly constitute long-term waste management decision-making. They assign onsite waste management responsibilities and apportion cost splits for future "remedy actions" under CERCLA (Superfund) between DOE and NYSERDA. These decisions were made in secret and were withheld from the public until after the September 8, 2009 close of the comment period on the sham (2008) waste disposition EIS, thereby violating both NYS public administration law and proper NEPA process.

Three days before the close of the public comment period on the sham waste disposition EIS, NYSERDA's project director revealed to the Coalition that transfer of control over "a portion of the [WVDPA] Project Premises on the north and east sides of the SDA to NYSERDA" is being negotiated with DOE prior to the decommissioning of the West Valley Demonstration Project in order to perform recently started knickpoint erosion control work on Erdman Brook, to establish "an erosion control buffer area for the SDA ... and to meet a requirement of NYSERDA's 6 NYCRR Part 380 Permit for the SDA." He further noted that "DOE and NYSERDA are working to develop and document a mutually agreeable cost split for this work." Seemingly either the cost split terms of the Consent Decree were unclear or perhaps he thought it inadvisable at that pre-ROD time to call attention to them. This transfer and the on-site erosion control work, no doubt hastened by the August storms event, constitute illegal implementation of the "interim end state" because the official decision (ROD) was not issued until April 2010. Did the appeals court examine the details of the NYSERDA/DOE "tentative" settlement agreement prior to making its August 31, 2009 ruling denying the Coalition's call for the legitimate NEPA site-wide final waste decision after an unprecedented 22 years of process? This court action added West Valley to the list of sites where the purposes of the NEPA have been willfully trashed by DOE.

In a final irony, completion of this "interim" end state is to be done by a Babcock & Wilcox led group. B & W is the current owner of Nuclear Fuel Services, the former operator of the West Valley reprocessing facility. NFS dumped its failed, leaking facility into public hands over 30 years ago; see Businesswire press release. NFS is currently the subject of a class action lawsuit at its plant in Erwin, TN. In Pennsylvania, a class action lawsuit against B & W over contamination at its Apollo site (formerly operated by NUMEC) was settled in 2009 for $80 million; in 2012 DHS patrols were added at the nearby Parks Township burial ground to guard weapons-grade uranium and plutonium being dug up by the Army Corps contractor.

Crews clean up several inches of mud left behind by the August 9-10, 2009 flood.
Will mud in Gowanda, NY be radioactive after the next superstorm? [NYDH photo]

[NYDH photo of mud cleanup in Gowanda, NY after the August 9-10, 2009 flood]

A fiscally sound, safe outcome at the West Valley site requires that Governor Cuomo and NYS Attorney General Schneiderman take actions to ensure:
1) a site-wide final cleanup decision is promptly reached that is in accord with the 1987 NEPA process which culminated in the legitimate findings of the 1996 site-wide EIS; and
2) compliance with the 1980 West Valley Demonstration Project Act (WVDPA), including:
a) injunctions to prevent illegal onsite waste management "interim actions" being conducted by DOE before the final site-wide cleanup Record of Decision (ROD) is issued; this decision should have been issued over 15 years ago;
b) a declaration that DOE is responsible for the exhumation of the High-level Waste tanks, the NRC-licensed Disposal Area (NDA) and the federally-sourced materials in the State Disposal Area (SDA); and
c) a declaration that the NRC must not apply the generic-EIS-supported, 1997 10 CFR Part 20 Subpart E (the so-called "License Termination Rule" or "LTR") to evaluate DOE's decommissioning plan for the WVDP Premises, but instead must perform a site-specific EIS to fulfill its WVDPA obligation: the determination of West Valley's site-specific cleanup criteria (see this discussion).

The Cuomo Administration should demonstrate it understands the near-term threat that West Valley's wastes and site conditions pose to the regional watershed by promptly declaring that the burial grounds and HLW tanks must be exhumed, even if that means the cost of SDA burial ground exhumation is borne by New Yorkers and bonding of the project is required.

West Valley Coalition documents

maps & photos

newspaper articles

Niagara Falls Storage Site

Full excavation and offsite disposal decision issued December 2015,
30 years late and w/o any funding commitments

Bldg. 411, 1985 NFSS Key Considerations and Recommendations
* Letter to Governor Cuomo re upcoming Army Corps decision *

A Long History of Poor Decisions

Blatant violations of NEPA are highlighted in a 1994 ROLE letter; also
see DEC's comments on the 1984 DEIS (note comments 4-7, and 9-22),
and officials' recommendations for management of the K-65 residues.

Legislative Mismanagement of K-65 Residues
IEER report slams DOE mismanagement of K-65 residues

Scoping comments on USACE's Building 401 proposal
DOE's 1986 'interim' waste tumulus said to be leaking
1994 walkover survey of the NFSS vicinity

Army Corps reassesses RAB interest, again; see comment letter.
Army will not form new group; Rauch letter; Army plan met by
unified local government resistance.

Tonawanda FUSRAP Nuclear Site

Seventy-three years ago U.S. President Harry Truman gave the order to use two atomic bombs against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This turning point in human history is well known to virtually all Americans and most of mankind. (For a revealing discussion of the little-known targeting details see an article from the May 2003 issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.)

Yet until recently, few American citizens were aware of the extensive harm done here at home by Manhattan Project operations and the subsequent massive "Cold War" atomic weapons buildup. The health and lives of tens of thousands of unsuspecting workers and their families were sacrificed. Dozens of communities where production facilities were located were carelessly contaminated with radioactive materials and wastes, and still remain so. These Poisoned Workers & Poisoned Places are casualties of a Cold War that had no winners.

Tonawanda, NY is one of these "legacy" communities. Today, some of its citizens are fighting with their own government to rectify past worker wrongs and to correct inadequate Army cleanup actions at the contaminated properties. These pages are dedicated to advancing this struggle.

[Image (61 kb) :
    Mushroom cloud from "Little Boy", the Hiroshima bomb's uranium was refined at Tonawanda, NY]
Mushroom cloud from "Little Boy" Much of the Hiroshima bomb's uranium was refined at Tonawanda.




LINKS . . . FACTS' website

Did you know?:
Even as the USA and other countries start a new round of nuclear reactor construction, Eastern scientists have revealed the true extent of mortality and morbidity resulting from the meltdown of the reactor at Chernobly 24 years ago. See a report on the new book published by the New York Academy of Sciences.

Atmospheric A-bomb testing in Nevada during the 1950s released approximately 150 million Curies of iodine-131. Downwind fallout heavily contaminated much of the U.S. milk supply with I-131 and strontium-90; New York State was one of the more affected areas. ... more

The most recent report of the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII) finally has confirmed what independent experts have been saying for many years: the dose-effect relationship is linear right down to zero dose, i.e. there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation below which cancer effects are not seen. The report states that 10 rems (100 mSv) of ionizing radiation, which is roughly the lifetime exposure to the average level of unavoidable background radiation (100 mrem/year), produces a cancer rate of 1 cancer in 100 people so exposed. Further, inheritable mutations produced in egg and sperm cells, which occurs in animal models, also occurs in humans. The report advises that individuals who have received whole body CT scans (several rems) should be followed for health effects.

[Image: U.S. Capitol (3kb)]


> Obama EPA vacates radiation protection
> NYS nuclear cleanup rulemaking is a sham
> High-level waste declassified
> High-level K-65 Residues misclassified
[Image: Yucca Mtn. (3kb)]


> Nuclear ruin at Paducah, KY plant
> Obama stops Yucca Mtn permanently
> Texas approves WCS's huge LLRW dump
> NRC finalizes dilution as 'solution'

About TNSI

Last updated April 4, 2018

Dedicated to the memory of Carol Mongerson, Henriette Gerwitz,
Emil Zimmerman, Ralph Krieger, and Don Finch

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