4:35pm

Mon April 4, 2011
West Valley

End of stimulus leads to West Valley layoffs

Cleanup at the West Valley Demonstration Project will continue with fewer employees. The end of federal stimulus funding will result in 65 layoffs at the former nuclear waste reprocessing plant.

Officials say the loss in funding won't compromise the site's rehab - but will slow it down.

So far, cleanup at West Valley has taken nearly 40 years and officials are hesitant to put an estimate on the number of decades it may still take.

West Valley spokesman John Chamberlain says more than $60 million in stimulus funding sped up some aspects of the project, including the construction of a one-of-a-kind a underground water filter that absorbs radioactive contamination.

"The labor force has to match up with the amount of funding that's available and [West Valley administrators] will adjust the scope of work and how fast you move forward on that work, based on how much funding there is," Chamberlain says.

But the funding struggle isn't over. West Valley could also face a cut to its base budget, Chamberlain says, in some versions of next year's federal budget, which reduce the site's operating funds.

"That budget obviously hasn't been decided upon. ... It is less than we have received in past years when you count in the stimulus money, especially the last few years," Chamberlain says.

If those cuts are made law, Chamberlain says additional layoffs could occur. West Valley's stimulus-related layoffs will be complete by June 30.

In the 1960s, West Valley was the first plant in the country to attempt to recycle nuclear waste, but complications and changing economic conditions led its shuttering in 1972.