SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND SECURE MORE THAN $66 MILLION IN FED FUNDING FOR THE WEST VALLEY DEMONSTRATION PROJECT IN 2017 SPENDING BILL; PROGRAM HAS BEEN SHORTCHANGED FOR YEARS & SITE CONTINUES TO POSE ENVIRONMENTAL RISK TO WNY; SENATORS SAY FUNDING WILL BE USED FOR WASTE CLEANUP AT THE CATTARAUGUS COUNTY SITE
The Recently Released Bipartisan Funding Bill Allocates More Than $66 Million to West Valley, an Increase of $7.2 Million To Clean Up Out-of-Use Former Nuclear Site
Schumer, Gillibrand: Increase In Fed Funds Will Give West Valley The Necessary Funds to Keep Clean Up on Track for 2017, But More is Needed
U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced more than $66 million was included in the recently announced federal funding deal for the West Valley Demonstration Project. Schumer and Gillibrand were able to successfully secure an additional $7.2 million above FY16 levels in the spending bill. The funding was included as part of the FY17 Omnibus, which is set to pass Congress in the coming days, to pay for ongoing cleanup efforts at the former nuclear site.
“This $7.2 million increase in federal investment will keep the clean up on track in West Valley. Each year that the West Valley Demonstration Project goes underfunded, the amount of time and money it will take to decontaminate and remove the radioactive waste increases. While the project is still shortchanged, this multi-million dollar increase is a positive step in the right direction,” said Senator Schumer. “I will continue to push my colleagues in Congress to invest in the cleanup effort, to protect Cattaraugus County residents, and all New Yorkers, and eventually end this public health and environmental hazard.”
“Increased funding will ensure that the cleanup at West Valley does not fall behind schedule,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It is critical for the health and safety of Western New Yorkers that the site is cleaned up and radioactive material is removed without delay, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that funding for West Valley remains a priority.”
Cleanup efforts have been continually underfunded, and while both Senators praise the new funding they agree there is still more to be done in order to clean up this former nuclear site. In 2008, the federal Department of Energy (DOE) issued an Environmental Impact Statement that said the site would need millions of dollars in federal support for the most cost-efficient plan. Since then Schumer and Gillibrand have fought and secured millions of federal dollars in order to give the West Valley Demonstration Project the resources it needs to support this critical cleanup effort.
The Senators explained the recently released federal spending package gave the West Valley Demonstration Project $66.4 million to help clean up the site. The Senators said this new $7.2 million increase brings the project one step closer to the DOE’s estimated $75 million dollar annual cost for cleanup. In FY 2015, the West Valley site only received $60 million for cleanup efforts; in 2014, it received $66 million; in 2013, it received $61 million; in 2012, it received $66 million; and in 2011, it received $59 million. In FY 2016, the site received $59.2 million in funding but this year Schumer and Gillibrand were able to secure $66.4 million to fund the program for the rest of FY 2017.
Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought to ensure the West Valley project is adequately funded. In 2016 they pushed Appropriators to fund the program at the agreed $75 million and continued their efforts in 2017 to fund the program. In March 2015, Schumer, during an in-person meeting, urged the former President’s nominee for the Office of Environmental Management at the DOE, Monica Regalbuto, to prioritize the complete cleanup of the West Valley Demonstration Project and support full federal funding for the effort. During their meeting, Schumer argued that the short-changing of West Valley is out-of-step with other DOE cleanup sites, which have seen either sustained or increased funding. Schumer also argued that the underfunding of the cleanup only increases the amount of time the project will take, wasting taxpayer dollars and risking the health of Cattaraugus County residents.
West Valley spends approximately $20 million each year on utilities, worker salaries, and other expenses so that decontamination work may continue. Schumer and Gillibrand’s newly secured higher funding level will aid the DOE’s ability to adequately fund the West Valley cleanup site. The Senators said it is only through full and swift clean-up that the damage to public health, the watershed, and the surrounding community can be mitigated.
West Valley is the site of the first and, to date, only commercial reprocessing plant in the United States. After beginning operations in 1966 with a theoretical capacity to reprocess 300 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel per year, the facility processed a total of 640 tons of nuclear waste in six years before shutting down in 1972. The West Valley Demonstration Project Act, signed into law on October 1, 1980, required the Department of Energy to solidify and dispose of the high-level waste, and decommission the facilities used in the process.
The West Valley Reprocessing Plant was formerly an operational plant for the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel at West Valley, New York. It was operated from 1966-72. During this time period, 600,000 gallons of highly radioactive waste accumulated in an underground waste tank. Today, millions of gallons of radioactive waste remain at the site. The plant was shut down in 1972 after regulations at the time required plant modifications. These new regulations were deemed by plant operators to be economically infeasible.