Free Malaysia Today – Anti-Lynas group throws debate dare

Tarani Palani | August 29, 2011

The People’s Green Coalition wants a prime time debate with TV3 environmental journalist Karam Singh Walia and two other experts.

PETALING JAYA: A member of the People’s Green Coalition which is against the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (LAMP) has challenged TV3 environmental journalist Karam Singh Walia and two other experts to a prime-time debate over the radiation hazards of the RM700 million rare-earth plant in Gebeng, Pahang

“I challenge them to an open debate on TV3 to find out the truth. Latest international finding shows that there is no safe radiation level,” said Ahmad Bungsu Hamidtua, a nuclear physicist.

“I want to ask them if they still think the project is safe after 20 years when the accumulation of waste is about five million tonnes of highly concentrated nuclear waste consisting of thorium, uranium and residue of heavy metals.

“Will it still be safe without any complete permanent disposal plan which Lynas still does not have at the moment,” he said.

Ahmad Bungsu was responding to Karam’s segment on LAMP during the channel’s prime time news Buletin Utama.

The journalist argued that the plant was safe and accused PKR’s Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, a staunch opponent of the plant, of twisting facts.

In a second part of the series last Wednesday, Prof Dr Ahmad Termizi Ramli, a radiological safety and health specialist, and PAS Hulu Langat MP Dr Che Rosli Che Mat, who is a nuclear scientist, were featured on the show.

The two experts claimed that the radiation level associated with the project was of natural level and not dangerous.

Che Rosli also said that Fuziah’s allegations were not “scientific or academic”.

“There is no safe level”

Another member from the People’s Green Coalition also backed Ahmad Bungsu’s call for a debate.

Tan Kah Kheng, a chemical engineer who was one of the activists involved in the disastrous Bukit Merah rare-earth plant in the 1980s, said: “You can bet I will be there”.

“If there were no radiation fears then why go through the hassle of inviting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit and come up with a report?” he asked.

The Malaysian government had asked IAEA for assistance in addressing public concerns about the project by forming a panel to review radiation heath and safety factors.

Tan said the IAEA had concurred with the suggestions put forth by the coalition and cited the example of proper storage of waste.

He said this further highlighted that there is a cause for concern over hazardous low level radiation of the waste products.

He added that the permissible and accepted level of radiation was constantly scaled down “since the time when X-rays were first discovered”.

“We must consider that this acceptable level of radiation has a history of changing standards all the time,” he said.

Dr T Jayabalan, a public health consultant who treated cancer patients from the Bukit Merah rare-earth plant in the 1980s, said the attack on Fuziah during the segments were “political in nature”.

“The attacks are neither academic nor scientific,” he said.

In a statement issued later, Jayabalan reiterated that no level of radiation was safe.

“The US Academy of Sciences BEIR VII Report states that no dose of radiation is safe however small, including background radiation. Exposure is cumulative and adds to an individuals risk of developing cancer,” said the doctor who is also a member of the coalition.

He added that there needs to be a distinction made between the terms used in discussing the rare-earth project.

The radioactive materials must not be referred to as “natural material” but in fact should be referred to as “technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials” (TENORM)

“By alluding to the radioactive materials as ‘naturally occurring’, it does not make the radioactivity go away,” he said.

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