Lynas residue rises 10% before licence extension

By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By BLOOMBERG

LYNAS Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s accumulated radioactive residual has risen to 637,581 tonnes as at Sept 24, 2019, an increase by 10% from about 580,000 tonnes in August, just before the federal government approved an extension to operate its ore refining plant.

Deputy Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis reiterated the government’s strict requirements on Lynas and ensured that the company’s operations in Malaysia will be radiation-free within the stipulated time frame.

“The permanent disposal facility (PDF) requirement will ensure that Lynas’ radioactive waste management is secured in the long-run compared to the stopgap plan that was authorised by the previous government.

“The current administration through the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) will regularly inspect premises owned by Lynas. In addition, environmental samples will also be taken as a verification step,” Isnaraissah told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Isnaraissah was responding to a question by Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (Barisan Nasional-Bera) who asked the ministry to state its reasons for allowing Lynas to operate its plant in Kuantan, Pahang and the impact it has on people living in close proximity to the plant.

She added that Section 22(1) of the Atomic Energy Licensing Act 1984 (Act 304) states that if the licensee breaches any of the licensing terms, the government, through the AELB, may cancel or suspend it for as long as it deems fit on any licence issued including to Lynas.

The Australian-listed firm has been given a six-month reprieve to continue operating its facility in Gebeng, Pahang, during which Lynas has to identify a suitable site to construct a PDF for its low-level radioactive waste if it fails to find another host country.

The rare-earths miner is also required to present a plan to set up a cracking and leaching plant overseas within four years of its licence renewal.

Currently, Lynas’ water leach purification stockpile is stored at a temporary storage facility which is at risk of being exposed to major floods. The company has also accumulated 1.08 million tonnes of neutralisation underflow residue scheduled waste over the same period.

On a supplementary question by Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (PAS-Kubang Kerian) on the effects of radioactive wastes on plant workers, Isnaraissah said the ministry is not aware of any reports by any individual who has been affected by the radiation. However, she said exact details can be obtained from the Ministry of Health for a more comprehensive picture.