Events Take Action

The History of the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site PART 1 and Action Needed in 2021

Presenter(s): Ray Vaughan, Geologist and Diane D'Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Date: June 1, 2021, 6-7:30 pm
The History of the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site PART 1 and Action Needed in 2021

To help stop invisible but long lasting, dangerous radioactivity from getting into our air, water, soil, food and environment join us for a monthly series to learn about the West Valley NY Nuclear Waste Site. One of the most radioactive buildings at that site, and at all the nuclear power and weapons sites, in the country is slated to be demolished starting in 2021. The West Valley Action Network groups are calling for an enclosure during demolition and offsite real-time, publicly-reported radiation monitoring to see if radioactivity is getting out.

The first two programs in the series will give the history of what's there, what was done, how dangerous it is from experts who have tracked the site for decades. 

1. June 1, 2021, 6-7:30 PM

The History of the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site PART 1 and Action Needed in 2021, Ray Vaughan, geologist  and Diane D'Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service. Register for Part I here:


2. June 22, 2021, 6-7:30 PM

Digging Deeper, History of West Valley Nuclear Waste Site PART 2 and Action Needed in 2021, Joanne Hameister, Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes and Kathy McGoldrick, Register for Part II here:


Join the West Valley Action Network in a 6 month series of ZOOM meetings to learn about one of the most radioactive waste sites in the country, here in Western NY.

New Yorkers own the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site which is upstream and upwind of Buffalo and the rest of NY, the Seneca Nation of Indians Territories and Canada.  Highly radioactive nuclear power and weapons waste was reprocessed there to extract plutonium and uranium, leaving one of the most intensely radioactive sites in the world. The US Department of Energy is tasked with “cleaning up” part of the site and they are about to demolish the above ground part of the super-radioactive reprocessing building as soon as Fall 2021. Much appreciation for the workers who have been suiting up and clearing out the building some of which was too radioactive for people and was only accessed by remote control.  Workers are removing as much radioactivity as they can before the building(s) are demolished–but radioactivity remains in the thick walls and steel-reinforced structures. How much long-lasting radioactive material will be spread during demolition to communities, farm and dairy land up the food chain to our milk, cheese, eggs, food crops, meat and fish? To our waterways, air and soil?

Is the legal level of radioactive contamination a "safe" level, especially for females, young people, older people and those with existing health conditions and exposure to other cancer-causing environmental and household pollutants?

What other radioactive waste is at the site?

The sessions will answer these questions and raise more, providing avenues for meaningful public participation.

The current concerns are summarized at

1) We need an enclosure over the building(s) during demolition (and future excavation of below-ground waste and structures) at West Valley to prevent radioactive materials from spreading to the air, land, water, people, flora, fauna and environment AND

2) We need continuous, real time, offsite, air and water monitoring and publicly accessible reporting before, during and after the demolition of one of the most radioactive buildings in the nuclear power and weapons complex.

3) We must watchdog this demolition and the many cleanup steps that must follow--to prevent huge amounts of buried nuclear materials from leaking out and to isolate the waste that is now stored above and below ground at the site.

The West Valley Action Network formed as a loose association of individuals and groups in 2009 to work for the full clean up of the West Valley Nuclear Waste site in West Valley NY, Cattaraugus County, draining north into Erie County and the Great Lakes. It is comprised of individuals and organizations in NY, the US and Canada working for the full cleanup of the West Valley nuclear waste site and includes the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes, Sierra Club, Western NY Environmental Alliance, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Indigenous Women's Initiatives, Citizens' Environmental Coalition, the Western NY Peace Center, WNYCOSH, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, NYPIRG, the Adirondack Mountain Club, religious groups, sporting  groups and many more.

Raymond C. Vaughan, Ph.D., P.G., is a professional geologist and environmental scientist in Buffalo. Earlier in his career, he worked for 33 years in research and development labs in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, then from 2000 to 2012 as an environmental scientist in the NYS Attorney General’s Office where he worked on limiting mercury emissions, protecting the Great Lakes, and many other issues. Ray has a longstanding interest in nuclear waste cleanup and environmental protection. He has served since 1997 on the West Valley Citizen Task Force, which advises the state and federal agencies that are cleaning up the nuclear waste site at West Valley, N.Y. From 1978 to 2006 he was a member of the Steering Committee of the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes. He served on the Town of Hamburg Conservation Advisory Board from 1980 to 1999 and has served on nonprofit boards, including the Western New York Land Conservancy from 1991 to 2002 and the Nature Sanctuary Society of WNY from 2013 to present. He has a wide range of interests, including WNY history—on which he has presented at conferences in Buffalo, Lewiston, and Edinburgh, Scotland—and enjoys canoeing, hiking, sailing, and other outdoor activities.


Diane D'Arrigo is the Radioactive Waste Project Director at Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). She has degrees in chemistry and environmental studies and work history in analytical and organic chemistry with a focus on the pollutants in the Great Lakes. She worked for the Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign based in Buffalo from 1980 to 1984 and as a community organizer and researcher at other public interest and environmental groups. Starting with the West Valley nuclear waste site, she has closely tracked nuclear waste issues for decades, including high level and so-called "low-level" commercial and weapons waste. She has repeatedly challenged unnecessary nuclear waste transport including over the Peace Bridge and has coordinated national and international opposition to deregulating nuclear waste that would allow it to be dumped as regular trash or made into everyday household items.