No unlimited storage of waste for Lynas, says ministry

File picture shows labourers working at an under-construction Lynas plant in Gebeng April 19, 2012. — AFP pic
File picture shows labourers working at an under-construction Lynas plant in Gebeng April 19, 2012. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 — Lynas will not be allowed to store an unlimited amount of waste at its rare earth storage facilities, the government said today as almost half a million metric tonnes of radioactive waste has already been collected.

A statement by the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), in expressing the government’s concerns over the increasing amount of residue produced by the company, said the decision was due to the continued accumulation of waste without a viable solution to manage it at hand.

“The Ministry is concerned about the increasing amount of accumulated residue at its open landfill temporary site as it is exposed to the threat of natural disasters such as major flooding.

“The risks to the surrounding communities and environment will increase as the amount of accumulated residue grows,” read the statement.

There are two primary types of residue produced by Lynas at their Lynas Advance Material Plants (LAMPs) in Gebeng, Pahang: Water Leached Purification Residue (WLP) and Neutralisation Underflow Residue (NUF).

WLP is a naturally occurring radioactive material and management of such wastes is currently regulated by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB).

NUF has been classified as a type of scheduled waste, is non-radioactive, and is regulated by the Department of Environment.

The statement detailed how 451,564 metric tonnes of WLP and 1.113 million metric tonnes of NUF are currently accumulated at the LAMPs in Pahang.

“The Ministry is concerned with the increasing risk arising from the continued accumulation of residue without a viable solution to manage its accumulation in the near-term.

“For this reason, the Ministry will not allow the unlimited accumulation of residue at LAMP,” read the statement.

The Ministry then outlined two preconditions for Lynas that would be required before renewing permits or licenses in the future.

“The accumulated WLP residue, which contains radioactive materials, must be removed from Malaysia; the existing temporary storage licence expires on September 2, 2019.

“For the non-radioactive NUF scheduled waste, LAMP shall submit an action plan on the disposal of its accumulated wastes before it will be considered for future applications,” read the statement.

Lynas’ permit to store NUF waste expires on February 15 next year.

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