No toxic or radioactive waste from Lynas, says its CEO


Modified 10 Oct 2018, 4:45 am

Lynas Malaysia is not a nuclear plant and it does not produce nuclear waste, says Lynas Corporation Ltd chief executive officer and managing director Amanda Lacaze.

The high-quality rare earth materials processed in the company's plant had not shifted the background radiation level, Lacaze said to Bernama in an interview.

"It is important that people understand radiation is part of our daily activities. We get exposed to radiation in many different ways, for example, smoking, getting on an aeroplane or sometimes just being as part of our surrounding environment.

"We are a lawful company, we comply with all of our licence conditions, everything that we do is about zero harm to our people, zero harm to the environment, zero harm to the community,” she said.

Lynas Malaysia has been operating a processing plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, which refines rare earth ores from the Lynas mine in Western Australia for the past six years.

However, there have been claims that the activities carried out at the plant can pose health hazards as they produce toxic and radioactive waste.

Last week, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Kuantan Member of Parliament Fuziah Salleh promised an “open and transparent” review of the Lynas plant in Kuantan.

Lynas Malaysia in turn had asked for any review to be conducted in a fair, scientific and transparent manner.

Last Saturday, workers at the plant staged a protest fearing that they would lose their jobs if the plant was ordered to shut down.

Lacaze said there was no toxic or radioactive waste produced by the plant instead the by-products of its rare earth refining activities produced two forms of gypsum – an iron-rich phosphogypsum (WLP) that contains very low level naturally occurring radiation and a magnesium-rich gypsum known as NUF, which is a non-radioactive material.

Both residues are safely managed under regulations expertly enforced by the Malaysian government through the Department of Environment and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board.

'Radiological risk is intrinsically low'

The WLP residues at Lynas Malaysia are stored on site in purpose-built, above ground storage facilities designed and managed in accordance with the requirements of international best practice.

Meanwhile, Lynas Malaysia Radiation Safety general manager Ismail Bahari said the International Atomic Energy Agency had clarified that the radiological risk from the Lynas operation is intrinsically low.

Ismail pointed out gypsum was a useful material that was used in a wide variety of applications, such as in the construction industry (cement and plasterboard) and in agriculture (slow release fertiliser and soil conditioning).

On the possibility of a leakage, Ismail said the company had carried out the radiology impact research and even made a 100-year predictions on the possibility of any leakage.

"One of the things we did in the radiation impact assessment was what if there was a tsunami? If you say a tsunami, you have to ask where are we located at, by the sea, the radioactivity in the material itself is almost like the level at the background.

"I have actually measured it and if you've heard of Pantai Pasir Hitam in Langkawi, we are at par with it and in fact, we are much lower for example when compared with the waste from tin mining activities.

"The residue can actually be returned to the environment based on the principle of waste management for radioactivity, which is called dilute and disperse," he said adding that the production and storage of the WLP had no negative effect on the surrounding communities as there had been no increase in background radiation levels since the plant started operations.

- Bernama

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