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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: Decom
Project Manager: Amy Snyder

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 NRC-licensed disposal area, 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 NYSERDA agreed to prepare a joint 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 decisionmaking for the site. 

Phase 1 of the decommissioning approach is being conducted in accordance with DOE's NRC-approved DP and is estimated to take 10 years to complete.  This work includes relocating the 275 high-level waste (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 are estimated to be completed by October 2018.  DOE completed the deactivation of the vitrification facility and started its demolition in October 2017 and anticipates that it will complete this work in FY 2019.  As of August 2018, DOE estimated that about 90 percent of the deactivation of the main process plant was complete with completion estimated for November 2018.   Also, as of August 2018, DOE has completed deactivation of 22 of the 47 balance of site facilities slated for demolition.  In FY 2018, the NRC staff conducted several monitoring visits covering the vitrification facility demolition and reviewed the first revision of the demolition work plan for the main process plant.

During 2018, DOE and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) completed Phase 1 studies which included erosion, exhumation, and engineered barriers.  The results of these studies will be used to assist decision-making and to inform the Phase 2 Supplemental EIS.  In early FY 2018, the NRC confirmed its intent to act as a cooperating agency for the DOE/NYSERDA Supplemental EIS.  The NRC staff attended scoping meetings on the Supplemental EIS that were held by DOE and NYSERDA in April 2018.  Preliminary work for conducting a probabilistic performance assessment is currently underway.  DOE requested that NRC review the preliminary probabilistic performance assessment draft documents and several models beginning in FY 2019. 

3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues

Current issues include the Phase 2 decision-making to complete decommissioning and/or long-term stewardship based on the approach determined appropriate during the additional Phase 1 studies and evaluations.

4.0 Estimated Date For Closure


Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, November 02, 2018