By Dr Looi Hoong Wah

'No need to fuss over waste from Lynas plant'

What's all the big fuss about the so-called "waste" from the Lynas plant?

Why waste Malaysian taxpayers' money debating this non-issue in Parliament when there are much more important problems that these MPs have been paid to solve?

All you need to do is to mix all the residues together and then add an equal amount of Malaysian soil and the mixture would be considered to be non-radioactive even in the USA and in the EU!

Kindly note: blending is a legitimate way of decreasing the impact of a norm (naturally occuring radioactive material) on the environment and follows the basic safety principle of the World Health Organisation, International Labour Organisation and seven more UN and other reputable international organisations - with guidelines on this existing in many countries.

Total "waste" from Lynas plant = 290,400 tonnes/yr consisting of:

1. water leach purification residue (WLP) = 64,000 tonnes/yr >>>> ~ 6 bq/g

2. flue gas sulphurisation residue (FGD) = 55,800 tonnes/yr >>>> ~ 0.049 bq/g

3. Neutralisation underflow residue (NUF) = 170,600 tonnes/yr >>>> ~ 0.029 bq/g

Average Malaysian soil >>>> ~ 0.082 bq/g

if we are to mix the WLP, FGD and NUF together, we will end up with a mixture of "waste" with a radioactivity of only 1.349 bq/g and if we add an equal amount of Malaysian soil to the mixture we will end up with a valuable mixture of soil enriched with magnesium, calcium and phosphate with a radioactivity of only 0.715 bq/g.

And since this is way below 1.20 bq/g, it is considered non-radioactive even in the USA and EU.

Regulatory limits on radioactivity in foods (source: IAEA)

USA foodstuff = 1.20 bq/g (1,200 bq/kg)

EU foodstuff = 1.25 bq/g (1,250 bq/kg)

Accepted global limits on radioactivity levels in foods is 1000 bq/kg (1,200 bq/kg in the USA and 1,250 bq/g in the EU).

Dominated by cesium-137 and SR-90, these levels were set by organisations like the IAEA and UNSCEAR after decades of study.

In Malaysia, any material that has a radioactivity of over 1 bq/g will be considered to be radioactive and needs AELB permission to be transported.

In the EU and USA, below 1.2 bq/g is considered to be non-radioactive and if it is edible, is also fit to be eaten.

Please note that: The 40 year old rare earth plant in La Rochelle, France had in the past used part of their waste to fill up the low-lying areas of their plant and this has not caused any problem !

In fact, prior to the end of 1974, this plant released all radioactive liquids and solids directly into the sea (where locals as well as tourists are swimming) without causing any problem.