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DRAFT REMEDIATION ACT COULD RESOLVE ISSUES

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's draft "West Valley Remediation Act" may help resolve disagreements between NYSERDA and the U.S. Department of Energy over decommissioning and long-term stewardship of the former commercial nuclear fuels reprocessing center near West Valley.

"We think the disagreements about the responsibilities are threatening to impede the progress of cleanup (at the former Western New York Nuclear Service Center in West Valley) and we want to get that resolved," said Hal Brodie, deputy counsel for NYSERDA.

As the work continues on dismantling the West Valley Demonstration Project's vitrification equipment, used in the recent solidification of liquid radioactive wastes, decisions remain for other wastes, equipment and storage facilities at the facility.

Authorities must finalize an environmental impact study and settle licensing details needed to terminate activities at the center. They also must decide who eventually will own the wastes remaining once the cleanup method is chosen.

In an effort to rekindle talks, NYSERDA began working on a proposed change in the law and was asked by the New York State Congressional delegation to work with the West Valley Citizen Task Force in drafting a "consensus" document.

The CTF is a group of community representatives empaneled in 1996 to make recommendations to NYSERDA and DOE on environmental impacts associated with the cleanup. The panel recommended a full cleanup and continues to meet monthly to discuss various problems associated with the site.

Brodie presented them with the latest draft of the legislation at the group's Wednesday night meeting.

Several CTF members questioned NYSERDA's elimination of their suggested language directing the center's title be transferred to the Secretary of the DOE. They also questioned the elimination of "decommissioning and closure" verbiage and expressed hopes that burial grounds containing waste will be cleaned up.

Brodie said the legislation's draft is not complete, but would result in a full remediation of the entire center. But some issues, such as the burial ground wastes, must be settled after a full environmental impact study, he said.

The CTF decided to have the draft reviewed by its legislative working group, which will discuss the proposal in a telephone conference. The group also decided to draw in the participation of other concerned groups for comments, such as the Nuclear Information Resource Service of Washington, D.C., and to incorporate their input.

Once a consensus is reached on the wording of the proposal, NYSERDA will sent it to the New York State Congressional delegation for possible introduction to Congress before a Feb. 15 date for introducing new legislation.

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