No toxic or radioactive waste from Lynas, says CEO

KUALA LUMPUR: Lynas Corporation Limited CEO and managing director Amanda Lacaze today reiterated that Lynas Malaysia is not a nuclear plant and does not produce nuclear waste.

She told Bernama that the high quality rare earth material processed in the company’s plant had not shifted the background radiation level.

“It is important that people understand, radiation is part of our daily activities. We get exposed to radiation in many different ways – for example smoking, getting on an aeroplane or sometimes just being part of our surrounding environment.

“We comply with the requirements. Everything we do is about ensuring that the people, environment and community are not harmed.”

Lynas Malaysia has been operating a processing plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, which refines rare earth ores from the Lynas mine in Western Australia for the past six years. However, there have been claims that these activities pose health hazards as they allegedly produce toxic and radioactive waste.

Last week, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh promised an “open and transparent” review of the Lynas plant in Kuantan. This came after Lynas Malaysia asked for any review to be conducted in a fair, scientific and transparent manner.

Last Saturday, workers at the plant staged a protest fearing that they would lose their jobs if the plant was ordered to shut down.

Lacaze said there was no toxic or radioactive waste produced by the plant.

She explained that the by-products of its rare earth refining activities produced two forms of gypsum: an iron-rich phosphogypsum (WLP) that contains very low level, naturally occurring radiation, and a magnesium-rich gypsum known as NUF which is a non-radioactive material.

Both residues are safely managed under regulations expertly enforced by the government through the Department of Environment and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board.

The WLP residue at Lynas Malaysia is stored on site in purpose-built, above ground storage facilities designed and managed in accordance with the requirements of international best practice.

Lynas Malaysia radiation safety general manager Ismail Bahari said the International Atomic Energy Agency had clarified that the radiological risk from the Lynas operation is intrinsically low.

He pointed out that gypsum was a useful material used in a wide variety of applications such as in the construction industry (cement and plasterboard) and agriculture (slow release fertiliser and soil conditioning).

On the possibility of a leak, Ismail said the company had carried out a radiology impact research and even made a hundred-year prediction on the possibility of leakage.

“One of the things we did in the radiation impact assessment was what if there was a tsunami? If you say a tsunami, you have to ask where are we located. By the sea, the radioactivity in the material itself is almost like the level at the background.

“The residue can actually be returned to the environment based on the principle of waste management for radioactivity which is called dilute and disperse,” he said, adding that the production and storage of WLP had no negative effect on the surrounding communities as there had been no increase in background radiation levels since the plant started operations.