Malaysian standards for radioactive waste products are laxer than the Australian standards

Why should we allow anything less in terms of safety standards than Australia? Does the BN government feel that the Australian Government is being too fussy? Or that Malaysians can take more radiation than the Australians?

The Anti-Lynas movement: Are we being unreasonable? – Jeyakumar Devaraj, The Malaysian Insider , 13 Dec 12  Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj is a PSM central committee member and MP for Sungai Siput.“……..Vastly Differing Standards  First, a brief overview of the industrial process of separating the rare earths from the rest of the ore.

Lynas actually has the license to operate a refining plant in Australia itself. Lynas acquired this license upon buying over Aston, the company that owned the mine in Mount Weld. In the mid 1990s, Ashton applied for a license to refine the ore, and in the process of consultations with the public in the region, agreed to a set of specific performances. If Lynas wants to use the refining license that came with the purchase of Ashton, it is committed to observing all the procedures agreed to by Ashton earlier.The table below compares requirements that Lynas would have to observe in Australia with the requirements for it in Malaysia.

The government has said in Parliament that Lynas is keen on operating a plant here because the total cost in Malaysia is only 30 per cent of the cost of refining the ore in Australia! (Despite the fact that it has to be transported from Mount Weld to Freemantle Port, loaded on ships and then brought some 4000 km to Kuantan for refining!) That means safety precautions in Malaysia are so much more lax than those required in Australia.

This point alone makes me uncomfortable. Why should we allow anything less in terms of safety standards than Australia? Does the BN government feel that the Australian Government is being too fussy? Or that Malaysians can take more radiation than the Australians?
Lynas’ cavalier attitude with regard to solid waste

Let me quote verbatim from Star 10/2/2012:

Lynas Malaysia SdnBhd says that its residue from its rare earth plant in Kuantan will be safe and can be used to build roads. Its managing director Datuk Mashal Ahmad said that the firm had succeeded in lowering the radiation level to below 1 Becquerel per gramme, which is similar to the radiation level in fertilizer.He added that such usage of the residue was not new and common in developed countries. Mashal said if the residue could be used commercially, there would be no need to have a permanent disposal facility.”

Rendered non-radioactive? How is that even possible? Thorium has an unstable nucleus. Every year a small percentage of all Thorium existing in the world will start a process of nuclear decay, emitting a series of Alpha, Beta and Gamma rays.Out of every kg of Thorium, about 10 billion Thorium atoms will start the process of decay each hour! There is no known technology to stop this occurrence.

Lynas is trying to pull wool over our eyes!Let me explain – according to the IAEA, a substance is classified as radioactive if it emits alpha, Beta or Gamma rays at a frequency of equal to or more than 1 emission per second per gram of that substance. 1 radioactive ray per second per gram is termed 1 Becquerel. 1 Becquerel per gram is the threshold level for classifying a substance as radioactive.

According to documents filed by Lynas, the solid waste from the Lynas Refinery would have an emission level of 6.4 Becqueral per gramme. So it would have to be classified as radioactive. But if one “dilutes” it by mixingthis solid waste up with 9 partsof road fill material, then its radiation level drops to 0.64 Becquerel – Hey Presto! No longer radioactive!! It is like adding water to a glass containing a sweet drink to make it taste less sweet – but the total amount of sugar that is consumed is not reduced!

 Don’t forget, the same waste if produced in Australia would have to be shipped back to the mine and stored beneath the ground in the shafts from where it was taken! We should also remember that the Lynas waste contains small but significant amounts of Thorium that has been ground down to a very fine size in the course of extracting the rare earths. If roadworks are carried out on a road comprisingLynas manufactured road fill, or if a pothole develops,  there is a real danger of release of this fine dust into the environment!
Underhand attempts to hoodwink us regarding the safety of the waste (and the amount of waste that will be produced is a huge amount – 64,000 tons per year3)has increased my level of suspicion regarding the entire project.
The competency and/or integrity of our Ministries and Agencies is suspect
Our government’s responses to the proposal to recycle the waste for commercial purposes isn’t too reassuring either! Consider the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister’s reply on 2/4/2012 to YB Lim Guan Eng’s question in Parliament.
Dakwaan YB Bagan bahawa syarikat Lynas tidak menjelaskan pelan pembuangan dan penyimpanan sisa projek LAMP adalah tidak benar. Syarikat Lynas bercadang mengitar dan mengguna semula residu yang dihasilkan melalui penyelidikan dan pembangunan untuk tujuan komercial.”Translation: “The accusation by the Honourable Member from Bagan that Lynas hasn’t yet specified how it intends to dispose of the waste from LAMP isn’t true. Lynas has proposed that the waste could be recycled and deployed for other commercial purposes through R&D.” This kind of answer does little to reassure thinking Malaysians who are genuinely worried about the possible health consequences of the Lynas Plant.

Are the government agencies competent enough? Do they understand the issues involved? Do they know that if Lynas had set up its plant in Australia, it would have had to transport the solid waste back to the mine for storage? Do they know about the issue of “internal emitters”?

Or has Lynas influenced them by underhand methods? Have certain parties already taken big sums of money promising to push the project approval through no matter what?

Once this element of doubt arises, and the credibility of the government agencies eroded, it becomes increasingly difficult to take their reassurances seriously.
But how about the IAEA?

They are supposed to be the international experts, and they have okayed the project. Right! But let me take you through a few points…….


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