26 February 2012

The Truth About Lynas In Kuantan

By:  Melinda Mazhar

Lynas, a simple, honest chemical processing plant in Kuantan, is somehow dragged into politics by irresponsible politicians who are out of genuine issues to fight for.  Now, these politicians disguise themselves as environmental champion, plan to hold a protest to stop Lynas from operating, claiming that the chemical processing is hazardous to human and the environment.

However, they are not at all interested in going by the law and apply for a court injunction to legally and seriously stop the operation which is evident that this protest is nothing but a political stunt.

Tireless efforts are made by the Lynas team to explain, but these desperados refuse to listen or even visit the plant.  As such, there seems to be no ending to this Lynas issue.

Believe it or not, the public are not all aware of this whole thing about Lynas controversies.   Now, here’s what it’s all about:

Allegations by Oppositions:


Lynas takes advantage of weaknesses in Malaysian law by proposing China standard. 
Malaysia’s law on radiological safety and health is AT PAR if not STRICTER THAN any of those used internationally.  Lynas has never proposed the used of any China’s standard.
Australian law restricts construction of such plant within 35km radius of residential area.
There is no such Australian law or even other international law on this.  The nearest town to Mt. Weld, Laverton just HAPPENS TO BE 35km away.   The distance is not a requirement.
Lynas brought in lanthanide concentrate without license.
Lynas DID NOT and HAS NEVER brought in any lanthanide concentrate into Malaysia.  The logistical trial run carried out by Lynas used an empty container instead.
Lynas came to Malaysia to avoid strict Australian rules.
Malaysia regulatory requirements IS EQUAL TO or STRICTER THAN that of Australia’s.  But, Malaysia is chosen for its:-          conducive and competitive investment climate
-          optimum resources.
Lynas was chased out from Terengganu due to environmental reasons.
Lynas WAS NEVER chased out of Terengganu.  But, Gebeng has the required port facilities, reliable support facilities and technically competent work force.
Lynas is a nuclear plant.
Lynas is NOT a nuclear plant but a simple chemical processing plant operating at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature.  Therefore, there will be no fire or explosion that will cause radioactive dispersion and contamination into the environment.
Lynas is the same as the controversial Asian Rare Earth (ARE) plant.
ARE uses monazite as raw material and Lynas DO NOT use monazite.    Lynas’s raw material radioactivity is 37 times LESS than ARE.  Lynas residue is 60 time LESS radioactive than ARE.
Environment will be polluted because the plant is located in a swampy land with shallow water table.
Lynas original site is about 2 m above the water table.  The site has been prepared by replacing with 1.4 m local fill making the site 3.4 M. above water table.  The RSF is built on top (not excavated) of the new site.  The base of the temporary storage facility is 0.75 M. thick making the base now 4.15 M ABOVE WATER TABLE.  The wall of the storage facility is 9 m high. 
Radioactive Exposure Prevention measures taken by Lynas:
-          Thorium is not soluble in water and thus can be precipitated and separated out.
-          HDPE liner will prevent leaching
-          Clay (layer below HDPE) has very low permeability to water and that will further prevent any possible leaching.
-          Thorium has strong affinity (stick strongly) for clay, thereby further reducing leaching.
-          An under liner leak detection system (ULLDS) monitors and detects any possible leak.
Lynas will cause radioactive rain from the gas released by the stack.
In a worst case scenario, the Radiological Impact Assessment estimated that stack release may only contribute 0.002mSv/year to the public which is 500 TIMES LESS THAN THE MAX. PERMISSABLE DOSE LIMIT set by the AELB (1 mSv/year)
The plant uses a lot of acid that can contaminate the soil.
All process areas are built on BUNDED CONTAINMENT CONCRETE structure.  Any acid spill will be contained in the bund and WILL NOT come into contact with the ground.
Lynas did not carry out study on internal radiation exposure.
Lynas carries out RIA in accordance to all regulatory requirements and IAEA standards.  RIA is an assessment of total dose and risks to critical targets (eg. workers and public) calculated based on all possible exposure pathways.  This means that both external and internal exposures were already considered.
Lynas operation will induce cancer and caused deformed newborns.
Statistic from Ministry of Health 2007 shows that cancer prevalence is 720 cases per million.  BEFORE LYNAS the, estimated fatal cancer from background radiation at Lynas site is 35 cases per million.   With Lynas in operation, based on the 0.002 mSv/y,  the estimated fatal cancer is 0.1 case per million.
Radon and Thoron can travel thousands of miles and cause health problems.
Radon and Thoron are radioactive gases with VERY SHORT HALF LIVES AND WILL NOT TRAVEL FAR.  Once formed, these radionuclides will immediately transform into solid and cannot travel at significant distances from its base.The dose rate at Lynas outside fence:
Radon – 0.00002 mSv/year
Thoron – 0.002 mSv/year
No level of radioactivity is safe.
Radiation is all around us.  Some areas in Perak, Selangor and Langkawi have higher than the average Malaysia’s level of radiation but posed no hazardous onsequences.  Radiation is also used in the medical field and it is perfectly safe.

Allegations by Oppositions:


Lynas brings no benefits to Malaysia and Kuantan
FDI value of RM2.3 billion with annual OPEX of RM600 million.  Total contracts for Malaysian contractors is RM1,168 million of which RM513 million is for Kuantan contractors.
Employment opportunities with Lynas stands at 350 direct employees, 300 contract staff and 1000 indirect employees through supporting industries.
Potential downstream industry, Siemen – Lynas JV employment for 1200.
The residue will be stored permanently at the site.
No residue will be stored permanently on-site.  Even though the RSF is a temporary storage facility it was designed and built to international standards of permanent storage facility.
Lunas produce 32000 ton of WLP per year with 0.165% Thorium ie. 50 ton of Thorium per year.
Lynas operation is neither extracting nor concentrating the thorium content.  Although the volume is large the concentration remains the same.
Lynas declares the residue as non-radioactive based on China standard of 74 bq/g
Lynas has declared to the AELB that its raw material and WLP contain low level naturally occurring radionuclides, from the very beginning.  Lynas has and will comply to Malaysia and international safety standards.
Australia requires waste to be returned to mine.
No such law in Australia.  Waste will be stored in accordance with Malaysia’s regulatory requirements.
Lynas Malaysia is managed by Australians.
Lynas Malaysia is fully manned and managed by Malaysians with five rare Earth experts from China and India.

Additional Information:

Beneficiating WLP Residue

Lynas started R&D to commercialize the application of WLP residue since 2009, with international and national organizations.  Eg. ENTECH (Australia) – ANSTO, SGS, Lakefield Ore Test (Australia), Australia Radiological Services (ARS), HAZMAT Service Pte Ltd. (Australia), IKRM, Physialia (UK), SIRIM.

Lynas has successfully:

- established a method to reduce the radioactivity concentration from 6Bq/g to below the 1Bq/g (limit set by AELB)

- Made WLP non leachable and non toxic
  • a~ has successfully treated WLP residue with chemical immobilizer and stabilizer.
  • b~ toxicocity testing involved EC50 Dafnia sp acute immobilization test.
Commercial application:

- To be used as hard-core based for road construction and car park (this is also recommended by the UK’s Health Protection Agency)

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