West Valley SEIS

Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for West Valley Site


Why is the SEIS for the West Valley Site Needed?


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) have determined that the preparation of a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) would further the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by including new information and changes since issuance of the 2010 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), and is consistent with the commitment in the 2010 Record of Decision and NYSERDA Findings Statement to providing robust and meaningful opportunities for public participation during decommissioning. Preparation of an SEIS for the West Valley Site would also further the purposes of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), the West Valley Demonstration Project (WVDP) Act, the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, and other applicable Federal and state requirements.

Phase 2 decisions will be informed by the Phase 1 and other scientific studies being performed at the West Valley Site, a long-term Probabilistic Performance Assessment, and an SEIS that will incorporate the above analyses as part of the evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of the range of reasonable Phase 2 alternatives proposed for the West Valley Site. The SEIS will ‘‘tier’’ (Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1502.20) from the 2010 FEIS, and, where appropriate, information and analyses from the 2010 FEIS will be summarized and incorporated by reference in the SEIS. The SEIS will contain new information and analyses to ensure its adequacy for Phase 2 decisionmaking.


Purpose and Need

DOE is required by the WVDP Act to decontaminate and decommission the tanks and facilities used in the solidification of the high-level waste, and any material and hardware used in connection with the WVDP, in accordance with such requirements as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) may prescribe. NRC has prescribed its License Termination Rule (10 CFR Part 20, Subpart E) as the decommissioning criteria for the WVDP. Therefore, DOE needs to determine the manner that facilities, materials, and hardware for which the Department is responsible are managed or decommissioned, in accordance with NRC’s License Termination Rule and applicable Federal and state requirements. To this end, DOE needs to determine what, if any, material or structures for which it is responsible that were not addressed in Phase 1 (i.e., Phase 2 facilities) will remain on site, and what, if any, institutional controls, engineered barriers, or stewardship provisions would be needed. That is, DOE needs to determine what it needs to do to complete the WVDP and return the Project Premises to NYSERDA.

NYSERDA needs to determine the manner that Phase 2 facilities and property for which NYSERDA is responsible, including the State-Licensed Disposal Area, will be managed or decommissioned, in accordance with applicable Federal and state requirements. To this end, NYSERDA needs to determine what, if any, material or structures for which it is responsible will remain on site, and what, if any, institutional controls, engineered barriers, or stewardship provisions would be needed. It is NYSERDA’s intent to pursue termination of the existing 10 CFR Part 50 license for the WNYNSC upon DOE’s completion of decontamination and decommissioning under the WVDP Act in accordance with criteria prescribed by NRC. NYSERDA plans to use the analysis of alternatives in the SEIS for the West Valley Site to support any necessary NRC or New York State Department of Environmental Conservation license or permit application.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)

Federal laws and regulations require the Federal government to evaluate the impacts of its actions on the environment and to consider alternative courses of action. NEPA specifies when an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be prepared. NEPA requires that an EIS be prepared for major Federal actions with the potential for significant impact on the quality of the human environment. Under NEPA, the “environment” includes both the physical environment (e.g., air, water, ecology) and the human environment (e.g., health and safety, transportation, cultural resources).

New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR)

New York’s SEQR requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decisionmaking. This means that agencies must assess the environmental significance of all actions they have discretion to approve, fund, or directly undertake. The SEQR environmental review process, including public involvement, is similar to that under NEPA. 

West Valley Demonstration Project Act (WVDP Act) (Pub. L. 96-368)

In 1980, Congress passed Public Law 96-368. The WVDP Act requires DOE to demonstrate that the liquid high-level radioactive waste from reprocessing could be safely managed by solidifying it at the WNYNSC and transporting it to a Federal repository for permanent disposal. Specifically, Section 2(a) of the WVDP Act directs DOE to take the following actions:

  1. Solidify, in a form suitable for transportation and disposal, the high-level radioactive waste at the WNYNSC;

  2. Develop containers suitable for the high-level radioactive waste’s permanent disposal;

  3. As soon as feasible, transport the solidified waste to a Federal repository for permanent disposal;

  4. Dispose of low-level radioactive waste and transuranic waste produced by the solidification of the high-level radioactive waste; and

  5. Decontaminate and decommission the tanks and other facilities used at the WNYNSC in which the high-level radioactive waste was solidified, the facilities used in the waste’s solidification, and any material and hardware used in connection with the WVDP.

Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (as amended) (P.L. 83-703)

The NRC license authorizes operation of a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing and radioactive waste disposal facility at the WNYNSC under 10 CFR Part 50, “Domestic Licensing of Production and Utilization Facilities,” which implements section 104b of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended.

It is NYSERDA’s intent to pursue termination of the existing 10 CFR Part 50 license for the WNYNSC upon DOE’s completion of decontamination and decommissioning under the WVDP Act in accordance with criteria prescribed by NRC. NYSERDA plans to use the analysis of alternatives in the Final SEIS for the West Valley Site to support any necessary NRC or New York State Department of Environmental Conservation license or permit applications.