SALAMANCA – The effort to clean up the site for the West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project is being hampered by Internet connections that have not been upgraded for years and are no longer up to the task.
Robert Keis, president of the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board, recently told the board that the Internet connection at both the administrative offices and the cleanup site are too slow for the project’s needs and have the potential to cause problems.
He said the facilities are equipped with T1 Internet connections that were purchased by the Cattaraugus County Legislature in the late 1990s or early 2000s. The lines were state of the art when they went in, but have become obsolete and were never upgraded as the cleanup project was passed from manager to manager.
One of the problems, Keis said, is that the company that is contracted to do the site cleanup work, CH2M Hill, has to transmit large amounts of data to the federal Department of Energy on a daily basis. He said the line does not have enough capacity to do the job.
“Who would have thought that the site would be so outdated?” Keis said. “It just doesn’t make sense that such a problem exists. Maybe we can be the agency to help get this problem fixed.”
Officials have discussed the problem with State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, and Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, and have requested that letters be sent to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the agency in charge of the site, as well as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office.
Keis said this is just the kind of problem Southern Tier West should be involved in addressing.
“We need to be the place people go when they have problems like this,” he said. “This is a ludicrous problem. Southern Tier West, as an entity, does not have the funds to do anything with the problem but we are in a position to facilitate. We are not talking $500,000 to $1 million to fix this problem. We are talking about maybe $100,000.”
The situation, he continued, is one that should not be happening at a place like the West Valley project.
“With as much of a concern as this place has created, one has to ask, in this day and age, how can they keep getting kicked off the Internet?” he said.
An effort is under way to have authorities at the facility write letters detailing the issue and send them to elected state officials, as well as federal officials representing the project and the area, in order to keep the project on track toward being decommissioned, Keis said.
Attempts to contact officials with the demonstration site were unsuccessful.
In 2012, the Southern Tier West Development Foundation submitted an application for $841,350 to the state Broadband Connect program. The program aims to add five locations to the WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) system, to offer more broadband Internet connectivity throughout Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie counties. A large push in this stage of broadband access will be on the medical side, to aid in compliance with paperless records, as well as hardware upgrades in the region’s libraries.
It is hoped that offering aid to the West Valley site will help in securing funding for these and future projects, Keis said.