KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — Amid pressure to send its waste home, the local outfit for Australian rare earth miner Lynas today rejected claims that its Pahang operation produced dangerous radioactive residue as alleged.
Lynas Malaysia general manager of radiation safety, regulations & compliance Ismail Bahari said the recent statements by Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) were “factually inaccurate”.
“Lynas Malaysia’s water leached purification (WLP) residue is Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM),” he said in a statement.
Ismail said WLP contains low-level, naturally occurring radionuclides, and the lanthanide concentrate in the feedstock material processed at the Lynas Malaysia plant has the same low level of NORM as the WLP residue.
“There is no technological enhancement of the low-level, naturally occurring radionuclides (Thorium and Uranium), which was confirmed by the government’s review committee appointed by the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change last year.
“The committee’s report states that WLP is a material that contains NORM. The International Atomic Energy Agency also classifies WLP as NORM, and its safety standard for protecting people and the environment advocates ‘dilute and disperse’ as one of the principal ways radioactive waste can be managed,” he said.
Ismail said all assessments of their operations should be based on scientific facts and evidence from qualified experts, and not unsupported assertions by unqualified people.
He reiterated his company’s stand that their Malaysian operations including the residue storage facilities were low-risk and in compliance with the relevant regulations.
Yesterday, SM Mohamed Idris, who is SAM and CAP president, urged the Cabinet to demand Lynas ship out its radioactive waste from Malaysia, alleging it cannot be regarded as naturally-occurring radioactive material but instead is made dangerous by technological enhancement.
He said Lynas’ Advanced Materials Plant in Gebeng, Pahang should cease operations should it fail to adhere to such demands.
In late November last year, the ministry’s executive review committee produced a report on the plant, which recommended the plant construct a permanent disposal facility for the WLP residue before renewing its license.
The report also said Lynas would have to be prepared to remove the waste out of the country, if the facility’s location cannot be identified.