22 September 2011What exactly was behind Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s motives when he challenged the Najib Government to push ahead the controversial Lynas rare earth refinery despite strong community protests?
He tried to summarize the tragic history and development of radiation health with his outdated knowledge of a doctor of yester years. The hazardous effects of x-ray was discovered by Dr Alice Stewart in her famous Oxford Twin leukaemia study in 1950s. Since then X-ray machines have improved as health impacts of radiation and ionizing radiation became apparent, and radiological protection (sic!!) limits continued to revise downward. In 1990 the National Academy of Sciences of the USA pronounced that there is no safe dose of radiation, subsequently the crucial biological impacts of low-level ionizing radiation (BEIR V report (1990)). We were fortunate to have the late Professor Edward Radford, who was the Chairman of the BEIR Committee, to investigate the Papan dump and Asia Rare Earth plant during the peak of the peoples’ protests, he found the dump and plant were unsafe.
The irony is Tun Dr Mahathir contradicted himself in the same page first referring to the lessons learnt by the medical profession in over exposing themselves to low-dose radiation by not evacuating to a safe distance whilst taking x-rays in the past.Then he went on to say he is opposed to nuclear power plant because nuclear wastes keep on radiating harmful rays for a million years and that there is no really safe way to dispose of them.
Has he read the preliminary environmental impact assessment and IAEA panel expert report on Lynas before he voiced his opinion? Does Tun Dr M not realise that the Mt Weld ore contains both thorium and uranium which are radioactive? Thorium especially is a hazardous substance with a half- life of 14 billion years, far, far longer than uranium. It will continue to decay into radioactive lead, radon gas and alpha particles, which are cancer causing agent. IAEA Panel experts also revealed that Lyans’ rotary kiln operating at 650oC, for removing the powerful and hazardous ore-surfactant, will release radioactive lead and extremely poisonous polonium.
Apart from the radioactivity aspect, the shear volumes of the Lynas waste streams – solid waste of about a quarter million Tonnes per year, is enough to fill 126 Olympic size swimming pools every year; it also contains other toxic hazardous substances such as unrecovered rare earth minerals and toxic heavy metals such as lead and barium. For rare earth processing of Lynas, yearly about 4 million Tonnes of clean water and millions cubic meters of clean air will be polluted, half a million Tonnes of sulphuric and huge quantities of alkali will be used, and astronomical amount of electricity consumed.
SMSL is appalled by Tun Dr M’s complacent stance on the Lynas plant despite his earlier opposition to Lyans, and his own government’s dismal track record in managing the Bukit Merah rare earth case.
How many lives need to be lost and how much of land and water need to be contaminated before we will ever learn to stop accepting highly polluting hazardous projects which Malaysia do not have a track record of managing safely?
Tun Dr M is well aware of the problem of nuclear waste to the point where he has made his opposing stance against nuclear power plants clear. How then could he develop such a blind spot on the Lynas project?
Is Tun Dr M complacency truly based on his limited understanding of nuclear science and physics or is it a convenient position for him as a father of two sons in one way or another linked to the Lynas project?
Firstly it is common knowledge that Tun Dr M’s second son Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir is the Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister the government body MITI which approved the construction of the Lynas plant.
Secondly, Tun Dr M’s eldest son Mokhzani is the Group CEO of Kencana Petroleum which has a nice stake in the Lynas rare earth refinery project. Kencana Torsco Sdn. Bhd. Is a subsidiary of Mokhzani’s Kencaca Petroleum. It has won lucrative contracts from Lynas Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. for the design, fabrication, lining, supply, installation, and commissioning of carbon steel and stainless steel tanks worth MYR9.1 million.
The Lynas contracts probably represented a windfall for Mokhzani since his return to the corporate world in 2007. Back in the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis, he was written off.
It is no co-incident that Tun Dr M decided to blog on Lynas’ when its share value took its steepest tumble yesterday (21st September) in two years. Perhaps daddy decided it was time to lend his weight to the deal to make sure Lynas is healthy enough in shareholders’ confidence to pay their bills.
What can concern residents - the majority of the mums and dad as well as youths do to keep Lynas inoperable so that they can have a peace of mind that their future will be clean and safe?
Given such entrenched vested self-interest at the elite level of politics, ordinary citizens should band together with like-minded people to claim their democratic right to reject a polluting hazardous project such as the Lynas rare earth refinery plant.
According to SMSL’s own research, one of the world’s leading banks, HSBC has recently sold millions of dollars worth of Lynas shares. SMSL has made two trips to Australia staging protest actions and engaging in public speaking tours in Lynas’ home turf of Sydney, Perth and Femantle respectively. HSBC is a signatory to the Equator Principles (http://www.hsbc.com/1/2/sustainability/sustainable-finance/equator-principles) which bound the banking giant to a set of social and environmental standards. It is hardly surprising that through the publicity generated in Malaysia and in Australia, HSBC’s own investigation found Lynas to be too much of a reputational risk to be linked to its corporate image.
The people of Kuatan have spoken loud and clear through the various peaceful public actions, the Stop Lynas campaign is a campaign run and supported by mums and dads and ordinary people who are simply worried about having a mammoth hazardous plant nearby. They want the plant to be stopped and they know they have the support of ordinary people to reach their goal ultimately.