By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh has demanded local regulators Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) state whether the waste from Australian miner Lynas Corp’s controversial rare earth plant near the Pahang capital will be radioactive.
The PKR vice president, who has been leading protests against the RM700 million refinery in the Gebeng industrial zone, said that if AELB sets a limit of one becquerel per gramme (Bq/g), then it must explain why Lynas has been allowed to construct its plant despite far exceeding that level.
“It is in the interest of the nation, especially the residents of Balok, Gebeng and Kuantan that (AELB) explains whether… one Bq/g is the limit or the ceiling, above which the waste will be considered radioactive.
“I would then like to ask why AELB gave the approval for Lynas’s waste to be categorised as safe, [saying that it] can be scattered everywhere and categorised as non-radioactive, when Lynas openly declares that the specific radioactivity level of their waste from LAMP is at 61 Bq/g,” she said in a statement last night.
AELB Director general Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan had said yesterday that Malaysia held to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — the United Nations’ nuclear body — standards of 1,000 Bq/kg and any higher levels of radioactivity would be subject to licensing procedures.
“We keep being asked to raise our standards to meet those in America and Australia. But we will not be raising, we will be downgrading,” he had said.
The AELB has maintained that it has only given Lynas site and construction approvals, and will not allow the miner to operate if it is not satisfied that the radioactive waste will be disposed of without harming Malaysia.
In an interview with The Malaysian Insider, Raja Aziz insisted that Lynas will not be allowed to store its waste onsite indefinitely.
The project is currently frozen pending a month-long review by a team of international experts.
The government ordered the review after bowing to public pressure in April and is awaiting recommendations from the IAEA-led review panel due at the end of the month.
Local residents and environmentalists have opposed the refinery due to fears of radiation pollution that is linked to diseases such as cancer and birth defects.
But Lynas, who insists that the facility is safe, is confident that its plans to begin operations in September will not be delayed despite the government review.
It expects a windfall of RM8 billion once the plant is running at full capacity by 2013, producing rare earth metals that are crucial for high technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and wind turbines.