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Amendment supporting cleanup of nuclear waste at West Valley site passes house

by jmaloni

Press release

Wed, Jul 10th 2013 11:55 pm

Higgins, Reed amendment protects community and Great Lakes

An amendment led by congressmembers Tom Reed and Brian Higgins to restore millions in funding for nuclear cleanup at the West Valley Demonstration Project site passed the House of Representatives Tuesday evening, ensuring cleanup efforts are able to continue at the local site.

"Providing adequate funding for nuclear cleanup is positive news for the health and safety of the local community, the care of the environment, and taxpayers who would otherwise see added costs in future years," Reed said. "Rather than allowing more taxpayer dollars to disappear into D.C. bureaucracy, this common sense amendment is fair to taxpayers and directs help to the sites where it is needed most, and I am so pleased to partner with fellow New York Member Rep. Brian Higgins once again on this important amendment."

"Cleanup at West Valley isn't a question of 'if' but 'when,' and delaying what needs to be done only costs more in the long run," Higgins said. "If this radioactive waste makes its way into the Great Lakes, the environmental and economic implications would be devastating. By working jointly to get this done, Western New York wins."

With bipartisan support, the House passed an amendment to the 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations bill to provide funding for non-defense environmental cleanup. The bipartisan amendment was introduced by reps. Tom Reed (R-NY), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Jim Matheson (D-UT).

Without the amendment, cleanup projects like the West Valley Demonstration Project would have seen an $18 million reduction from last year. Reps. Reed and Higgins have been vocal advocates for West Valley cleanup, working closely with the West Valley Citizen Task Force and the Department of Energy, and sponsoring similar successful amendments in recent years defending local nuclear waste cleanup.

Higgins made remarks on the House Floor urging passage of the amendment:

"Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this bipartisan amendment, which seeks to adequately fund the Non-Defense Environmental Cleanup program.

"Our amendment ensures that nuclear cleanup sites get the funding they need to protect communities, including Western New York, from radioactive contamination.

"The West Valley Nuclear Waste Reprocessing Plant, established in response to a federal call to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, has since ceased operations, leaving behind more than 600,000 gallons of high-level radioactive waste.

"To say this is a public safety and environmental hazard is a massive understatement.

"We have already seen a leak develop into a plume of radioactive groundwater.

"And if this radioactive waste makes its way into the Great Lakes, the environmental and economic implications would be devastating.

"It is the responsibility of the federal government to not let funding shortfalls delay further cleanup.

"For West Valley alone, further delays would add an additional $30 million in maintenance costs per year.

"Like paying the minimum on a credit card, not committing adequate funding only delays progress and adds costs.

"I am proud to join my friend and colleague, Congressman Tom Reed, on this very important issue, and I urge bipartisan support for this important amendment."

West Valley Reprocessing Plant processed used nuclear fuel and was operational from 1966-72. Escalating regulation required plant modifications, which were deemed uneconomic, and the plant was shut down.

The West Valley Demonstration Project Act of 1980 established that the federal government, via the Department of Energy, is responsible for solidifying the high-level waste, disposing of waste, and decommissioning all facilities used.

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