2:12pm Jul 9, 2012
Stop Lynas Save Malaysia (SMSL) today refuted Academy of Sciences Malaysia’s (ASM) assertion that the Lynas plant in Gebeng would be safe.
SMSL spokesperson Tan Bun Teet (right) condemned Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) CEO Ahmad Ibrahim for justifying this using a comparison with the Rhodia rare earth plant in La Rochelle, France.
“The French Rhodia plant in La Rochelle cannot be compared with the Lynas refinery in Gebeng.
“Rhodia has stopped using rare earth materials containing thorium, whereas the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) uses raw ore concentrate, containing both radioactive thorium and uranium”, he said.
He was referring to a report on Rare Metal Blog citinig a rare earth expert that La Rochelle was forced to utilise radioactivity-free rare earths due to French government restrictions on thorium waste disposal.
The Malaysian government has yet to impose such restrictions on Lynas, said SMSL.
‘Rhodia to leave radioactive waste in Gebeng’
Last Wednesday Bernama reported Ahmad saying that based on the experience of the La Rochelle plant, that uses the same technology as the Gebeng plant “without incident”, the latter should face no problems.
“ASM research found that there were no technical problems for Lynas to operate because sources that would be processed from China and Australia are the same sources that had been processed at the 50-year factory in France.
“Imagine that the factory has operated nearly 50 years in the tourism city, La Rochelle, in France, and is still strong and certified as safe,” Bernamaquoted him saying.
Tan however claimed that as the La Rochelle plant is now using radioactive-free materials, it allegedly has plans to source refined rare earths from the Gebeng plant.
“In 2010, Rhodia signed a 10-year contract with Lynas to purchase its rare earth oxides from the Malaysian plant which is radioactive-free, since the radioactive materials would be removed and be left in Malaysia (by the refining process),” said Tan.
He added that Rhodia’s record as a clean rare earth refinery was not spotless, citing unacceptably high acidity and chemical oxygen demand (COD, which measures toxicity of the waste) levels in the water outside one of its rare earth refineries in Liyang, China.
“In 2008, it (Liyang) was found also to have caused pollution through wastewater discharge from its plant – its COD exceeded the legal limit by 6.9 times, and phosphate concentration was measured at 0.628mg/L,” he said.
ASM truly independent?
Tan slammed ASM – a government-linked body established under the Academy of Sciences Act 1994 – for lending its name to a commercial project, asking who was funding the body and if it has any financial relationships with the rare earths industry.
“Has the ASM received grants or donations from Lynas, or any of its industries downstream?
“If so, it is crucial that the ASM disclose details of its financial relationships so that the public is clear about whose interests it represents,” he said.
“Is Ibrahim not concerned that by lending his name and that of the ASM (to Lamp), his ethical standard and professional integrity as well as the independence of the ASM as a professional body for our country’s scientific community will be questioned?” he added.