Crisis at West Valley 2 : the Community Responds

Title

Crisis at West Valley 2 : the Community Responds

Description

1. This video file begins with a film entitled “The Story of Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing.” It was produced by Nuclear Fuel Services and describes the operation of the plant at West Valley. It describes the benefits of “unlocking the power of the atom” which “promises almost unlimited energy sources.” The plant’s mission is to reclaim the uranium and plutonium inside spent nuclear fuel rods used by atomic power plants, researchers, and test reactors throughout the United States. The material is shipped to West Valley in “ruggedly built trucks and special railroad cars.” The plant is capable of the processing of up to one ton a day of spent fuel elements.
(Runs: 11 minutes)

2. Reporter John Beard’s story of a recommendation by the New York State Department of Energy that the plant reopen as a storage facility for more spent nuclear fuel. Beard’s report includes a warning by environmentalists who say that “West Valley is a time bomb threatening to leak radioactive liquid into the soil and eventually into the waterways of Western New York.” Some local residents are in favor of the reopening, saying it would be beneficial for tax purposes and jobs. 

Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, a nuclear physicist and staff scientist to the Radioactive Waste Campaign, emerges as a major voice of opposition.
Those against reopening the facility as a repository call for a ban against spent fuel moving through Cattaraugus County. Congressman Stanley Lundine (D-Jamestown) says it there is “a remote possibility that the site could reopen as a federal nuclear waste storage facility. Lundine points out there is limited storage space and “seismic or environmental problems.” Researchers have determined that West Valley sits in a seismic fault zone. 
(Runs: 3:05)

3. Reporter Rich Newberg’s story on more safety questions raised by area environmentalists. A former lab supervisor at Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) says there had been problems with the crane that moved the radioactive rods in the pool of water that stored them. David Pyles says there were problems stopping the crane, causing rods to “slam” into other canisters. A spokesman for NFS says he knew of no crane problems while the plant was in operation.
 
Another concern is raised about the potential for a leak in a portion of a containing wall, as described in a study commissioned by the Federal Energy Commission. The report says this could occur if there were a seismic occurrence in the area. NFS terms that a “minor” defect. Environmental scientist Ray Vaughan says it’s “absurd to talk about bringing in more fuel.”
(Runs: 2:07)

4. Reporter Rich Newberg’s story showing a petition by area residents calling for a ban on any further nuclear waste to West Valley, as well as the removal of all present nuclear waste stored at the site. 

Dairy farmer Emil Zimmerman, who owns 7 cows and 175 acres of land in West Valley, expresses his concerns. He can see the site from his farm. 
(Runs: 1:55)

5. Reporter Rich Newberg’s story showing deer heading toward the low level nuclear burial site.
They are then seen eating grass twenty feet above radioactive waste. The New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) says its samples of deer in the area shows the animals safe for human consumption. 

However, in the early 1970s when the plant was active, state environmental officials became concerned when high levels of radioactive strontium 90 and cesium 137 were found in deer and fish. Even then, the levels were deemed not to pose an imminent danger to humans. 

Since the plant’s closing, leaks were detected in the low level burial ground area. 

Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, a nuclear physicist and staff scientist to the Radioactive Waste Campaign, says the grass where the deer were grazing is contaminated. 

Newberg reports that contaminated water will soon be drained from the site and placed in a holding pond, but that there are no plans to fence off the pond from area animals. 
(Runs: 1:47)

6. Rich Newberg’s report on concerned citizens meeting to map out a strategy to fight a proposal to reopen the nuclear waste storage facility at West Valley. 82 communities in 10 states have banned the transportation of nuclear waste within their borders. The citizens against the proposal express concerns that a major accident involving a vehicle transporting nuclear waste, or an accident at the plant, could threatened the entire region. They say the environmental risks would outweigh the economic gains if the plant facility were to reopen as a storage site. 
(Runs: 1:32)

7. Rich Newberg’s story on concerns by the Buffalo nuclear medical and research communities about a lack of storage space for low level nuclear waste. They support the reopening of the West Valley burial site for this type of waste. Only South Carolina and the state of Washington are accepting radioactive waste from Buffalo and other hospitals and research labs around the country.

Dr. Monte Blau, PhD., the chairmen of the University at Buffalo Department of Nuclear Medicine (1976 - 1983) believes low level nuclear waste should be stored in the regions where they are generated. 

The use of radioactive isotopes injected into patients are able to help identify tumors in the body. Radioactive tracers have been powerful tools in fundamental studies of the nature of cancer.  
With South Carolina and Washington having second thoughts about accepting waste from other states,  there is a growing concern that the practice of nuclear medicine might be forced to come to a halt. 
(Runs: 1:57)

8. Rich Newberg’s story on the Department of Energy assuring New York Governor Hugh Carey that the federal government will manage and pay for cleanup efforts at West Valley. However, in order for that to happen, Congress must pass a bill that environmentalists warn could lead to a reopening of the site as a nuclear storage facility. 
(Runs: 1:19)

9. Rich Newberg’s story on environmentalists warning that the West Valley low level nuclear burial site has serious issues that should rule it out as a repository for future nuclear waste. They say plutonium is buried there, even though that practice was prohibited in 1977. 

They also point to leaks in the burial ground in 1975. Water, they say infiltrated the ditches where radioactive waste is stored. They say strontium 90 and plutonium should be unearthed and put in bins above ground.

Another issue brought to light focuses on sand “lenses” discovered in a clay burial ground area.
Radioactive tritium was said to have migrated from the sides of trenches in 1977. 

Activists say there is inadequate monitoring of the soil composition.

Those who favor reopening the burial grounds say it is becoming more difficult to dispose of waste from nuclear medicine. 
(Runs: 2:23)

10. Rich Newberg’s story on the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) proposal for full funding of the West Valley cleanup in exchange for a reopening of the site for more nuclear waste. 
Judith McConnell of the Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign says, “that’s like sweeping up a pile of dirt and then turning around and dumping another one on the floor.”

Governor Hugh Carey’s office says the GAO proposal carries little weight. 
(Runs: 1:58)

11. Rich Newberg’s story on New York Governor Hugh Cary’s signing of a bill that sets up a five member siting board for future burial of radioactive waste. 

While he assures the public there will be no future burial of high level radioactive waste at the West Valley site, he leaves the door open for future nuclear medical waste disposal at the low level radioactive burial grounds. 

Carol Mongerson of the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes reacts by saying, “that will never be acceptable to the people of the area.”
(Runs: 1:47)

12. WIVB-TV’s Washington D.C reporter Bob Patrick’s story on New York Governor Hugh Carey’s support of a bill sponsored by Congressman Stanley Lundine (D-Jamestown). The bill would separate the federal government’s willingness to clean up the high level nuclear waste at West Valley from the insistence by some federal energy officials that the site remain open for the disposal of more radioactive waste.  
(Runs: 1:33)

13. Rich Newberg’s report on Cattaraugus County lawmakers hearing from area residents opposed to reopening West Valley for the storage of nuclear waste. 

Dairy farmer Emil Zimmerman testifies that conditions exist where contaminated water could leak from radioactive trenches where waste is buried. He cites one such case. 

There is a speaker in favor of burying solid, low level nuclear waste at the site. He is Kenneth Dufrane, a former worker at Nuclear Fuel Services who now represents Chem-Nuclear Systems, a company interested in the site. He says the radioactive leaks are “very minor…and did not cause any kind of a problem to anyone at any time.” 

Twelve thousand petitions are signed by citizens against future burial at the site. 
(Runs: 2:00)

14. Aerial and ground video of West Valley site
(Runs: 3:29)

Date

1980

Source

Rich Newberg Reports Collection

Publisher

WIVB (Television Station: Buffalo, N.Y.)
Buffalo & Erie County Public Library
(publisher of digital)

Rights

opyright held by WIVB-TV. Access to this digital version provided by the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. Videos or images in this collection are not to be used for any commercial purposes without the expressed written permission of WIVB-TV and the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. Users of this website are free to utilize material from this collection for non-commercial and educational purposes.