Nuclear Waste: Agreement Among Agencies Responsible for the West Valley Site Is Critically Needed

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The West Valley nuclear facility in western New York State was built in the 1960s to convert spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors into reusable nuclear fuel. New York State, the owner of the site, and the Atomic Energy Commission--the predecessor of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Energy (DOE)--jointly promoted the venture. However, the timing of the venture was poor because the market for reprocessed nuclear fuel was limited and because new, more restrictive health and safety standards raised concerns about the ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. May 11, 2001.

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Description

A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The West Valley nuclear facility in western New York State was built in the 1960s to convert spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors into reusable nuclear fuel. New York State, the owner of the site, and the Atomic Energy Commission--the predecessor of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Energy (DOE)--jointly promoted the venture. However, the timing of the venture was poor because the market for reprocessed nuclear fuel was limited and because new, more restrictive health and safety standards raised concerns about the facility. West Valley was shut down in the 1970s, and Congress enacted the West Valley Demonstration Project Act in 1980, which brought DOE to West Valley to carry out cleanup activities. This report examines the: (1) status of the cleanup; (2) factors that may be hindering the cleanup; (3) degree of certainty in the Department's estimates of total cleanup costs and schedule; and (4) degree to which the West Valley cleanup may reflect, or have implications for, larger cleanup challenges facing DOE and the nation. DOE has almost completed solidifying the high-level wastes at West Valley, but major additional cleanup work remains. These tasks, which could take up to 40 years to complete, include decontaminating and decommissioning structures, remediating soil and groundwater, and removing nuclear wastes stored and buried onsite. The following three factors are hindering DOE's attempts to clean up West Valley: (1) DOE and New York State still have not agreed on the overall future of the site, (2) NRC cleanup standards for West Valley do not exist, and (3) cleanup planning has been limited by uncertainty about where West Valley's nuclear wastes are to go. In addition, DOE's estimates of the total costs and completion date for the West Valley cleanup are uncertain because of a lack of agreement on many strategic issues affecting the site, such as the extent to which the site is to be cleaned up, what it will then look like, how the land is to be used, and what regulatory cleanup standards are to be used. DOE's plan to deal with the underground high-level waste storage tanks at West Valley has potential implications for other DOE disposal efforts."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • May 11, 2001

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  • June 11, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. Nuclear Waste: Agreement Among Agencies Responsible for the West Valley Site Is Critically Needed, report, May 11, 2001; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc294559/: accessed November 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.