OPINION / COMMENTARY
The Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes has been a watchdog at the West Valley nuclear facility since 1972, a decade before the Department of Energy and New York Energy Research and Development Agency became involved. The Coalition is also a major stakeholder as a result of a successful lawsuit in Federal Court, one outcome being a Stipulation of Compromise in 1987 .
On one hand, the West Valley nuclear waste site got some much needed attention with a recent report by Daniel Robison: Nuclear Waste Cleanup at N.Y. Site Nears Completion, which aired nationally on NPR.
On the other hand, considering all things, the report was biased, did not offer a balance of comments and contained significant conflicting statements. The result, therefore, presented false optimism, rather than the reality of risks and problems that will have to be taken care of and for which there are no plans.
The title claimed the site was nearing completion and yet the introductory paragraph ended with the statement that “there’s no end in sight”. John Chamberlain, Public Relations for West Valley Environmental Services (major contractor to the Department of Energy), said “there’s no way to get rid of all the radiation, some will take millennia to fully decay.” These statements do not speak to a cleanup.
Sharon Seneca, University of Buffalo doctoral candidate, designed a permeable treatment wall to intercept water-borne Strontium that has been leaking for decades, said that the "wall will stop working in 30 years". Strontium’s hazardous life of 10 half-lives is 280 years or 10 generations. Presently, there are no plans for the ensuing centuries and that does not speak to a near completion.
The people of Western New York and downstream in the Great Lakes basin should not be lulled by this report. The threats, particularly to municipal water supplies, are there and very real and will need our constant heeding and vigilance.
The fight for good decision-making and stewardship at West Valley nuclear facility is far from over.