Lynas seeks to send toxic waste to Australia despite no-import policy

The Malaysian Insider
By Lisa J. Ariffin
September 14, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — Lynas Corporation has applied to Australia to import radioactive residue from its controversial rare earth refinery in Kuantan although Canberra has reiterated its policy of rejecting such waste from other countries, says an Australian diplomat.

Malaysia’s nuclear regulator Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) had said that the Australian miner was legally bound to remove radioactive waste from its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) and return the residue to Australia under conditions of the temporary operating licence (TOL) issued last week.

File photo of construction work going on inside the Lynas factory in Gebeng, Kuantan. — Reuters pic

“Lynas has submitted an application to the regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), to import material from Malaysia,” an Australian High Commission spokesman toldThe Malaysian Insider

“The application will be subject to Australian government policies, laws and regulations,” he said.

But the spokesman said Putrajaya and Lynas bore responsibility over the disposal of radioactive waste from the RM2.5 billion rare earth refinery

“Questions about management of waste from Lynas Corporation’s rare earth processing plant in Malaysia are a matter for the Malaysian government and Lynas.

“Long-standing Australian government policy is that Australia does not accept other countries’ radioactive waste,” said the spokesman, who declined to be named.

Lynas received the TOL last week from Malaysian authorities, paving the way for its rare earth plant to begin operations despite widespread public protests over safety and environmental concerns.

Lynas said that it would begin transporting and completing all steps to prepare enriching the rare earth ore mined in Australia by October.

The TOL allows Lynas to operate for a period of two years beginning September 3.

The AELB had emphasised that Lynas must adhere to all requirements and conditions imposed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation through the Atomic Energy Licensing Act.

Last Friday, the regulator was reported as saying during a media conference that Lynas’ commitment to remove radioactive wastes from the Gebeng plant in Kuantan was not binding as it was not a condition for the TOL.

AELB director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan had said the agency only relied on Lynas’ unilateral commitment without putting it in “black and white”.

He said, however, that if Lynas broke its commitment to ship the waste overseas, the AELB would consider its options against the miner.

“I’m sure they will take it out. The board decided it (and) took into account they will take it out.

“Should that not happen, there are various steps and considerations that the board can take,” he said.

Last week, five Kuantan residents were given the High Court’s nod to challenge the science, technology and innovation minister’s decision to award a TOL to the Australian miner.

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