Lynas is not Chernobyl, there is no danger, says Mahathir

A group of people protesting this morning in Kuantan against the continued operation of the Lynas rare earths plant in Gebeng. (Facebook pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said scientists have clearly said there is no danger from the Lynas rare earths project in Kuantan and the government will “stick to the views of the experts.”

He said scientists better understand the matter and the dangers.

“Sometimes, we get all worked up because someone has a pet idea and goes around saying that this (project) is terrible.

“This is not Chernobyl. Chernobyl is very dangerous,” he said, adding that there are 700 qualified people working at Lynas who have not complained about the matter.

“It is either we get rid of the industry and lose all credibility dealing with foreign direct investments or we go ahead and take care of whatever that is considered to be a problem.

“We can take care of the problems,” he said on the toxic waste material produced by Lynas.

Mahathir further likened the objections to the Lynas plant to the Penang Bridge built in the mid-1980s.

“Remember the Penang bridge? When we wanted to build it, there was so much opposition to it, with people claiming that it’ll be a waste of money.

“And then they wanted to build another bridge, and then build another tunnel.”

Mahathir said if the government were to listen to popular views, then they would not have gone ahead with such projects.

“If you go according to the popular view, there is nothing you can do because every time we propose to do something, there will be some people who’ll be against it,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that even though the waste accumulated at Lynas was “not dangerous”, it was a big amount.

“We are ready to dispose of it but we cannot export. Nobody wants to accept it and we cannot throw it into the sea because the fish will die … if that’s true.”

He said the government could dispose of the waste in several places.

Last week, Lynas’ licence was renewed for six months, with three new conditions imposed.

Lynas will have to move its cracking and leaching process, which is currently conducted at its plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, out of the country.

Lynas will also have to identify a specific site to construct a permanent disposal facility.

It will also have to end all research and development activities related to the use of the radioactive water leach purification residue as Condisoil for use in agriculture and reconditioning of soil.

The company itself has repeatedly stated that it complies with all safety standards.

This morning about 300 people took part in an anti-Lynas protest in Kuantan, saying they were concerned for the safety of the workers and nearby residents.