By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 — Local regulators Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) admitted today that the radiological impact assessment (RIA) of the controversial RM700 million rare earth plant in Kuantan was incomplete and that Australian miner Lynas Corp would have to submit another before it is allowed to operate.
Director general Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan (picture) said today that the RIA, prepared by government agency Nuklear Malaysia, was only sufficient for the site and construction licenses granted up to this point but does not address operating and decommissioning stages.
“It’s true that the RIA is not good enough for the whole process. They have to submit another,” he said to investors at a luncheon organised by Malaysian Industrial Development Finance (MIDF) Berhad.
Although the RIA, that was made available for public viewing at the end of May, declared the project to be safe but recommended that the report be revised again when operational data from the plant being built in the Gebeng industrial zone is obtained.
The RIA also said that the general public will receive no additional radiation from the refinery plant workers will be exposed to an average of 13 millisiverts (mSv) annually for the first 10 years of operations.
However, it said that if radioactive waste, which local residents and environmentalists fear will lead to diseases such as cancer and birth defects, is allowed to be stored onsite, the public will receive doses as high as 6.23 mSv/year in 1,500 years’ time.
The government bowed to public pressure in April, putting the project on ice pending a month-long review by a team of international experts.
The review panel was in Malaysia two weeks ago to meet local stakeholders and will submit recommendations to the government by the end of the month.
Lynas was due to apply for a pre-operating license but the process was frozen due to the review. It is confident that the review will not delay plans to begin operations in September.
It expects an RM8 billion windfall from the refinery when it goes into full capacity by 2013, producing rare earth metals that are crucial for high technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and wind turbines.