No more radioactive wastes from Lynas by July

The govt has instructed the Australian company to move all activities that produce radioactive wastes from the country by July this year

by AKMAR ANNUAR / pic TMR File 

THE government will revoke Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s licence should the latter fail to fulfil the conditions imposed, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Chang Lih Kang said.

The government had approved Lynas’s three-year licence renewal last month to operate until March 2026 with a firm instruction that the Australian company moves all activities that produce radioactive wastes from the country by July this year.

“Following the three years’ licence extension, Lynas must comply with the conditions imposed since March 2020 so that the cracking and leaching (C&L) activities that produce radioactive wastes will be conducted in Australia.

“Also, no C&L activities will be carried out at the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) in Gebeng, Pahang, after July 2023,” he said in a recent statement.

However, other activities that do not involve the production of radioactive wastes are allowed to continue operating.

“The unity government is committed to creating a business-friendly environment and understands the importance of the rare earth industry. However, no party has the right to continuously produce radioactive wastes in our homeland,” he added.

Chang said Lynas has been informed that the Atomic Energy Licensing Board decided it is a “no-go” to its request to drop four conditions related to the C&L activities, generation of water leach purification (WLP) residue and importation of lanthanide concentrates from Australia.

Other conditions under the licence include building a permanent disposal facility (PDF) to store radioactive waste and prohibition from importing lanthanide concentrates from Australia.

Chang revealed that the construction of the PDF is still in progress, and the location is now within Gebeng itself.

“The PDF is currently 32% built.

“It is expected to be completed within three years to house the radioactive wastes, which now weighs 1.08 million metric tonnes (MT), having accumulated at LAMP in Gebeng since it started operations in 2012,” Chang said.

According to the minister, Lynas’ radioactive wastes are a result of the management of WLP residue and C&L activities at LAMP.

If this continues, Chang said the radioactive wastes could increase to an estimated 1.2 million MT by July.

On the bright side, he agreed that the 32% completion of the PDF is on the right track and reasonable given the circumstances.

On the progress, he was unsure whether areas surrounding Lynas are safe for human habitation, also given that the radioactive wastes are now stored in a place shaded by a roof instead of an enclosed space.

“Regardless, there would be no more radioactive wastes from Lynas after July 2023,” he affirmed.