Lynas plans to dilute the radioactive waste, declassify it from being labelled as radioactive and dispose of it as commercial items. Irresponsible and unethical behaviour, YES, but yet gets a green light from the Malaysian authorities.
Initially in 2008, AELB was the only regulator for LAMP. Then MOSTI and MITI came together before the visit by IAEA in May 2011. But to date the Ministries that are responsible for Lynas has been increased to four Ministries. Refer Joint statement of the four ministries on the 22nd February 2012. It finally has dawned upon the Najib’s administration that the hazards regarding LAMP is multifaceted in nature and dealing with LAMP requires multi-disciplinary intervention.
However the presence of the various Ministers and Ministries does not add to the efficiency in managing LAMP, but rather adds more complications and contradictions, as is usually the case in Malaysia when we work across agencies. Clearly no lead agency is calling the shots in Lynas’ case. Or AELB may be the lead agency, but at the same time proving to be very incompetent in regulating Lynas.
Day after day the public continue to be fed with alarming and contradictory statements regarding LAMP’s safety. The various Ministers as well as the regulatory body, AELB can’t even seem to agree on the contents or the radioactivity of the waste. They even fall into the trap set by Lynas to label Lynas’ waste as ‘residue’ instead of ‘hazardous and radioactive waste’.
First the Health Minister announced that Lynas must send their waste back to its country of origin. Later the Prime Minister overruled and said that the waste will have to be transported out of Gebeng. Latest the Minister for MITI is quoted as having said that the waste from LAMP is not radioactive in nature, thus can be sent abroad with just a letter of undertaking. While the various Ministries had parroted that LAMP is safe, it’s only the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment who had been silent so far. The Minister of NRE had also failed to answer why a Detailed EIA was not conducted prior to issuance of the TOL, when the law now clearly has made it compulsory to have a DEIA on LAMP.
I would like to bring to your attention the following data presented by Lynas in their Radioactive Waste Management Plan (RWMP pg32) that was on display in January 2012.
Characteristics and Radioactivity of the 3 waste streams:-
Total activity of FGD=0.47 Bq/g
(FGD-Flue Gas Desulphurisation)
Total activity of NUF=0.52 Bq/g
(Neutralisation Underflow Fluid)
Total activity of WLP=62.3 Bq/g
WLP (Water Leach Purification)
This is not taking into account the thousands of cubic metres of treated liquid waste, discharged from LAMP on a daily basis, which may also have some radioactive materials in it. We do not know for sure how much, since Lynas does not have a pilot plant anywhere. The Gebeng plant will be the testing place with the issuance of the TOL.
Since we have been assured by the Minister of Science and Innovation in Parliament that Malaysia follows International standards and the cut off point for a waste to be classified as radioactive waste is 1Bq/g. Clearly the WLP waste is classified as radioactive waste and has to be regulated by AELB under Act 304.
The FGD and NUF even though is not classified as radioactive waste, are classified as hazardous waste since it also contain radioactive elements. These two waste streams will be regulated by DOE under the Environmental Quality Act.
In the RWMP, Lynas presented a best case scenario and a worst case scenario for management of their hazardous and radioactive waste. The best case scenario is to recycle their waste and to commercialize the FGD and NUF waste into gypsum boards and fertilizers.
Basically if this is allowed to happen, Malaysia will be legalizing Lynas to scatter their radioactive waste EVERYWHERE.
At the same time Malaysian authorities will be allowing the public to be exposed to the hazardous and radioactive materials. Through the fertilizers, the radioactive materials will find its way into our food chain. The thorium in the waste have a half live of 14 billion years and is carcinogen in nature. In the process of the decay which will take a very very long time, radioactive gases will be released and it will finally stabilizes as lead.
The Malaysian authorities in its endeavour to pacify the public and to cover up its mistakes in bringing Lynas to Malaysia, will actually be exposing the whole international community to the hazards contained in the waste.
All these while Lynas has used the external radiation reading as a measurement of their safety, knowing that they can easily get away with it. But external radiation alone does not explain the various exposure pathways that the public is subjected to when dealing with radioactive waste.
Regards to the WLP, Lynas plans to commercialize this waste which is classified as radioactive waste by first diluting it to below 1 Bq|g so that it is declassified from being labelled as radioactive waste. Following which the waste will be commercialized as base materials in the construction for roads (this was announced by Lynas in January 2012).
This is the best case scenario that is being presented and seems to be accepted by the authorities right now. The worst case scenario is the PDF.
Malaysia somehow does not seem to appreciate that this activity is an irresponsible unethical behaviour and tantamount to cheating the public.
Nowadays, the internationally accepted criteria for hazardous and radioactive waste disposal are based on the total amounts of contaminants of hazardous materials and not the concentrations of the contaminants alone.
Diluting the WLP will make it non-radioactive by classification, but the total amounts of radioactive materials in the waste will still remain the same! (Based on the Law of the Conservation of Mass)
Dilution of effluent is not allowed under regulation 17 of the Environmental Quality (Sewage And Industrial Effluents) Regulations, 1979 which is as follows:-
17. Dilution of effluent
No person shall dilute, or cause or permit to be diluted, any effluent, whether raw or treated at any time or point after it is produced at any premises unless prior written authorisation of the Director-General has been obtained for the dilution and the dilution is done according to the terms and conditions of the authorisation.
Malaysia must study how Lynas’ competitor, Molycorp soon to be in operations in 2013 plans to manage their radioactive waste. Molycorp in their documents have announced that they will have zero liquid discharge and all solid waste will be buried underground in concrete bunkers lined with lead walls. (Molycorp’s ore from Mt Pass in California have less thorium and uranium contents than Lynas’s Mt Weld ore)
Lynas has made a mockery of Malaysian Laws and has fooled the whole of Najib’s administration. They also made the Ministers look so incompetent when these Ministers were caught just repeating what Lynas tells them without having a clear understanding of Lynas’ misleading plans.
I continue to assert that Malaysia does not have the capacity nor the competency to regulate the largest rare earth refinery outside China. Neither does Malaysia has the capacity to develop a set of Best Practice for a rare earth refinery without referring to the China Standards.
LAMP must NOT be allowed to operate anywhere in Malaysia.
YB Fuziah Salleh
Member of Parliament for Kuantan, Malaysia