Lynas silent on long-term effects of radioactive waste, says Fuziah

Fuziah Salleh. -Bernama filepic

KUANTAN: Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh slammed rare earth materials producer Lynas for being silent on the long life of its radioactive waste, which she claimed could have long-term effects on people's health and the environment.

"Lynas is very good with their messaging strategy that it is easy to fall for their low level radiation narrative. Lynas has always been silent on the long life, very, very long life, 14-billion-years half-life of thorium in their radioactive waste.

"Unfortunately many people in the government fell for it and were convinced by their narrative too," said Fuziah.

She added that most people found it difficult to comprehend and thought the anti-Lynas activists were politicising the issue due to Lynas' narrative.

"Now only after five years of operations and dumping of the radioactive waste onsite as well as the scheduled waste amounting to a total of 1.5 million metric tonnes, sadly the groundwater beneath Lynas is already contaminated with heavy metals," Fuziah said in a statement on Sunday (March 31).

She said this would have an effect on the villagers living around Gebeng, some of whom were still dependent on tube wells for daily water use.

"Yes, we welcome FDIs but not ones like Lynas. We welcome FDIs to the point that I am assisting them to resolve the water shortage issue that industries are facing right now.

"However, industries that pollute and think they are above the law are not welcomed in Kuantan. And Pahang for that matter," said Fuziah, who also is Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.

In response, Lynas Malaysia reiterated that it provides the local communities with information based on scientific evidence.

It said the scientific review committee appointed by the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister last year found the company's operations to be low risk, compliant with relevant regulations and its residue storage facilities were operated in a proper manner.

It added that the review committee said the company was a rare earths extracting plant and could not be compared with a nuclear plant or a plant producing thorium or uranium.

"Radiation risks are not determined by the half-life of a material alone but more importantly by the level of exposure.

"Malaysia adopts the International Commission on Radiological Protection limits of exposures for both workers and the public and Lynas is fully compliant with these limits," the company said in a statement signed by Lynas Malaysia managing director Datuk Mashal Ahmad and radiation safety, regulations and compliance general manager Prof Ismail Bahari.

The statement added that all residue storage at Lynas Malaysia had been approved by regulators and very low level radioactive residue produced by the company was not unique in Malaysia.

"The oil and gas industry, tin mining and among processing industries also produce radioactive residues. These industries have been in operation for many years.

"The ministry's review committee did not suggest that any increase in the concentration of heavy metals in groundwater was due to Lynas Malaysia.

"However, it recommended further research on groundwater in the Gebeng industrial area. Lynas, in collaboration with accredited laboratories, is currently carrying out its own independent investigation to rule out any contribution from our operations," it said.

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