The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) team of experts has concluded its review of radiation safety at the Lynas rare earth processing facility in Pahang and will submit a final report to the government at the end of this month.
The eight-member team carried out the follow up mission at the request of the government and reviewed progress on 11 recommendations made by the IAEA review mission in June 2011 while the plant was under construction.
The team met officials from federal and local governments, Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB), staff of Lynas Corp Ltd and other stakeholders, in addition to visiting the plant which has been operational since 2012.
In a preliminary announcement, it said radiological risks of the Lynas plant are low and that Malaysia is actively updating its regulations in accordance with the most recent IAEA safety standards.
“The IAEA team was very pleased with the openness of the Malaysian institutions, Lynas and other stakeholders in providing information and views. This was very helpful for our understanding of the situation,” said team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo, director of the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology in the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy in a statement issued last Friday.
According to the IAEA in its preliminary observations, good progress had been made in implementing the recommendations of the 2011 mission, and noted that the radiological risks of the Lynas plant are low because of the very low level of radioactivity of the materials handled.
The team also advised on further progress in specific areas such as waste management plan which should be based on realistic scenarios including the identification of a final disposal site.
The IAEA also said environmental monitoring activities should be optimised to ensure resources are focused on the most important areas, including enhancing monitoring of liquid discharges and the basis of the financial fund to be paid by Lynas for long-term waste management and decommissioning should be communicated more clearly.
Finally, IAEA encouraged AELB and Lynas to maintain a proactive approach to relations with the media, public and other stakeholders, on an ongoing basis, to address continuing widespread misconceptions about the plant and radiation issues in general.