Environmental NGO questions Putrajaya’s requirements for Lynas

SAM president Meenakshi Raman.

PETALING JAYA: Environmental NGO Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) has questioned some of the conditions set by Putrajaya for Lynas Corp to continue operating for another six months, including securing a permanent disposal facility (PDF) for its radioactive waste.

SAM president Meenakshi Raman said the government did not specify when the waste is to be transferred from its temporary site to the PDF in its press release to announce the extension.

Meenakshi asked whether the rare earths company could find a safe and suitable place for its waste, adding there was also a need for an environmental impact assessment and a radiological impact assessment to be done.

“There should be no compromise for these to be properly done, or any efforts to rush through these processes without all the safety concerns being addressed,” she said in a statement, that was also signed by CAP acting president Mohideen Abdul Kader.

Meenakshi said that Lynas operations should have been suspended until the PDF is in place, as it has already accumulated 580,000 tonnes of radioactive waste, with more to be generated if the plant in Gebeng operates daily.

She also could not understand the four-year time frame given to Lynas to set up a cracking and leaching facility (CLF) abroad.

“This effectively means that the company will be allowed to generate another four years’ of radioactive waste until the operations shift to Australia.”

Presumably, she added, these additional waste will be also disposed of in the PDF, which in effect means that at least one million tonnes of radioactive waste will have to be managed for decades, if not centuries, to come.

She said that with such a large amount of waste expected, huge costs will also be incurred to maintain the disposal facility.

The government, Meenakshi, said should therefore clarify the total cost of addressing the waste, including the cost of cleaning up the temporary storage site; the cost of acquiring, preparing and building the permanent disposal site; the cost of maintaining the site and the opportunity cost of not being able to make use of the land in the vicinity of the site.

Meanwhile, Pahang DAP expressed disappointment over the Cabinet’s decision to renew Lynas’ licence and vowed to continue opposing the project.

In a joint statement, seven DAP Pahang assemblymen said that the government should listen to the views of the Anti-Lynas Movement.

“Even though Malaysia is constrained by the Basel Convention and Lynas did not comply with the agreement of transporting the radioactive residue abroad in 2012, what Malaysia can and should do is, at the very least, stop renewing Lynas Corp’s operating licence.”

They also claimed that the stipulations set by the government, which it claimed was stricter than the ones set by the previous government, would not allay the public’s concerns and worries.