West Valley Demonstration Project

1.0 Site Identification

Type of Site: Complex Decommissioning Site
Location: West Valley, NY
License No.: CSF-1
Docket No.: 0500201, POOM-032
License Status: DECON
Project Manager: Mathews George

2.0 Site Status Summary

Located 48 km [30 mi] south of Buffalo, New York, the West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) site is located on the Western New York Nuclear Service Center (WNYNSC) and comprises 1,335 ha [3,300 ac] of land established for a former reprocessing facility. The 1980 WVDP Act gives the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) exclusive possession of the WVDP site, an 80-ha [200-ac] portion of the WNYNSC, which includes the former reprocessing facility, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)-licensed disposal area (NDA), high-level waste (HLW) tanks, waste lagoons, and above-ground waste storage areas. The WNYNSC contains a former commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing facility that operated from 1966 to 1972, and produced approximately 2,271 m3 [600,000 gal] of liquid HLW. The WNYNSC also contains contaminated structures and two radioactive waste disposal areas: (i) a 6-ha [15-ac] New York State-licensed disposal area—which is not on WVDP premises—that operated as a commercial low-level waste (LLW) disposal facility from 1963 to 1975, and (ii) the 2.8-ha [7-ac] NRC-licensed disposal area that received radioactive waste from the reprocessing plant and associated facilities from 1966 through 1986.

In 1980, Congress enacted the WVDP Act. Under the Act, DOE assumed exclusive possession of the 200-acre portion of the WNYNSC which includes the former reprocessing facility, the NDA, the HLW tanks, waste lagoons, and above-ground waste storage areas. The WVDP Act authorized DOE to: solidify, transport and dispose of HLW that exists at the site; dispose of LLW and transuranic waste produced by the WVDP; and decontaminate and decommission facilities used for the WVDP in accordance with requirements prescribed by NRC. In 1981, NRC put the technical specifications of the license in abeyance to allow DOE to carry out the WVDP Act. In 2002, DOE completed the solidification of liquid HLW which was placed into 275 stainless steel canisters. The HLW canisters are expected to be stored onsite until shipped for disposal to a federal repository.

In 2002, the Commission issued its final policy statement on decommissioning criteria for the WVDP. The policy statement prescribed the NRC's License Termination Rule (LTR) (10 CFR part 20, subpart E) as the decommissioning criteria for the WVDP, reflecting the fact that the applicable goal for the entire NRC-licensed site is compliance with the requirements of the LTR.

In 1990, DOE and the licensee (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) (NYSERDA) agreed to prepare a joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to address the completion of WVDP and closure or long-term management of the WNYNSC. NRC is a cooperating agency for this EIS in accordance with its responsibilities under the WVDP Act. In September 2005, NRC and other cooperating agencies initiated a review of a preliminary (pre-decisional) draft of this EIS. In April 2006, cooperating agencies forwarded comments to DOE on the preliminary draft EIS.

In November 2006, the DOE convened a "Core Team" of federal and state agencies involved in the EIS. The Core Team's goal was to assist in addressing technical issues related to the EIS. DOE issued a draft EIS for public comment in December 2008, and issued a final EIS in January 2010. In April 2010, DOE issued the EIS Record of Decision (ROD) which implements the DOE and NYSERDA preferred alternative (Phased Decision-making Alternative) identified in the EIS. DOE's preferred alternative to decommissioning the West Valley Demonstration Project site near Buffalo, New York, employs a two-phased approach to decommissioning the site. Phase 1 involves the decommissioning of most site facilities, including demolition of the main plant process building and vitrification facility and studies to reduce uncertainties associated with decommissioning the remaining facilities (referred to as Phase 1 studies).  Phase 2 involves the completion of the decommissioning process and long-term management decision-making for the site.

Phase 1 of the decommissioning approach is being conducted in accordance with the DOE-WVDP Phase 1 Decommissioning Plan (DP) and was estimated to take 10 years to complete. According to the DOE Phase 1 DP, DOE estimated that the Phase 1 Decommissioning could be completed in 10 years at an annual funding profile of $75 —$100M. In FY 2020, the NRC has asked for an updated schedule for the completion of Phase I and also for the SEIS and Phase II DP schedules. DOE and NYSERDA are currently working on updating their schedules. They informed the public in FY 2020 that there have been delays in the Phase I completion date due to decommissioning contract issues and delays in the SEIS due to complexities in the Probabilistic Performance Assessment Model development.

Phase 1 decommissioning includes relocating the 275 HLW canisters and 3 non-conforming HLW canisters to long-term interim storage on-site with the demolition of on-site structures (remote handled waste facility, vitrification facility, process plant), continuing to ship low-level waste, and managing the NRC-licensed disposal area. In July 2018, DOE completed a major milestone, processing, shipping, and disposing of all legacy waste on site. The remaining legacy waste shipments were completed by October 2018. DOE completed the deactivation of the vitrification facility in 2017 and completed demolition in FY 2019. DOE continues with performing decommissioning under the Phase I Decommissioning Plan.

The Phase 2 decommissioning involves the completion of the decommissioning process and long-term management decision-making for the site. During 2018, DOE and NYSERDA completed Phase 1 studies which included erosion, exhumation, and engineered barriers. The Phase I studies are separate from the EIS process. The results of these studies will be used to assist decision-making and to inform the Phase 2 Supplemental EIS (SEIS). In early FY 2018, the NRC confirmed its intent to act as a cooperating agency for the SEIS. The NRC staff attended scoping meetings on the SEIS that were held by DOE and NYSERDA in April 2018. Over the past few years, DOE and the licensee began building a probabilistic performance assessment (PPA) framework or model which they intend to use to inform the SEIS.

Also, since 2018, DOE and NYSERDA continue to work on developing the Draft SEIS for Phase 2 Decommissioning, and draft Phase 2 DP. These plans cannot be completed until the SEIS is completed. NYSERDA also intends to prepare a draft proposed DP to address anticipated license termination for the Cesium Prong, Bulk Storage Warehouse, and potential soil/streambed sediment contamination outside the WNYNSC. The State-Licensed Disposal Area, never licensed by the NRC, will also be included to allow a comprehensive view of dose contributions from the entire licensed premises. The updated schedules have not yet been provided to the NRC.

Ongoing performance of site operations are conducted to support Phase 1 decommissioning including Maintenance & Utilities, Permeable Treatment Wall Operations, Remote-Handled Waste Facility Operations & Maintenance, Low Level Radiological Waste Treatment System Operations, Waste Tank Farm Maintenance, and NDA Maintenance.

Each year, the NRC staff conducts several monitoring visits covering the ongoing activities at the site.

Demolition of the Main Plant Process Building (MPPB) is part of Phase I Decommissioning. The MPPB Decontamination and Demolition Work Plan has been under development since 2017. In April 2019, the DOE informed the staff that it is moving forward with the demolition of the above grade portion of the MPPB Decontamination and Demolition Work Plan development after a hiatus and requested that NRC resume its review of DOE's responses to NRC's comments on the MPPB Decontamination and Demolition Work Plan. The DOE incorporated lessons-learned from the successful demolition of the Vitrification Facility at West Valley, as well as other demolition activities at other DOE sites. The staff completed its review in May 2019 requesting proof of concept information before open air demolition begins. In May 2020, the DOE changed it approach to the MPPB Decontamination and Demolition Work Plan. The NRC reviewed the changes and provided additional comments to DOE in September 2020. As of the end of FY2022, DOE estimated that most of the deactivation and decontamination of the MPPB has been completed to a level that would permit building open air demolition. MPPB demolition activities are estimated to continue through 2024.

3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues

Current issues include the Phase 2 decision-making to complete decommissioning and/or long-term stewardship. Such work will be based on a better understanding of the uncertainty identified in the 2010 EIS through the evaluation of results from the Phase 1 studies and the use of the PPA model to evaluate the different SEIS scenarios. Then Phase 2 decisions for decommissioning implementation through a Decommissioning Plan, separate from the NEPA process, must be made by DOE and NYSERDA and reviewed by the NRC. Finally, the NRC must determine if the application of the NRC decommissioning criteria is implementable at the site when it completes its NEPA requirements for prescribing the decommissioning criteria for West Valley.

4.0 Estimated Date For Closure


Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, September 12, 2023