PETALING JAYA: The government has renewed rare earth producer Lynas Malaysia's licence for another six months, but with conditions.
The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) said that the government agreed to renew Lynas' operating licence but there are certain conditions to be met in regards with its processing of waste.
“These conditions were decided after the Australian government and the Western Australia state government informed Malaysia that it will not be accepting Lynas’ radioactive Water Leach Purification (WLP) residue.
“The conditions were decided based on recommendations made by the Lynas executive review committee in its report on November 2018, ” the AELB said in a statement on Thursday (Aug 15).
The conditions are that Lynas will have to move its cracking and leaching process, which is currently conducted in its plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, out of the country.
This means that the company will have to put forward a plan to build a “cracking and leaching” facility overseas which will start operating within four years from the date the licence is given.
It said that once the facility starts operating overseas, the licence holder will no longer be allowed to produce radioactive residue of more than 1 Becquerel per gram in its Gebeng plant.
The AELB also said that Lynas will have to identify a specific site to construct a permanent disposal facility (PDF) and to obtain written permission from the state government for the use of that site.
Lynas will also have to put forward a comprehensive plan for constructing and financing the PDF.
The company also has to produce an official, written permission from the authorities of whichever country it plans to send the WLP residue to.
“The PDF must be constructed quickly to minimise the risk of the accumulated radioactive WLP residue, amounting to more than 580, 000 tonnes in the temporary residue storage facility, which is exposed to threats of natural disasters such as floods, ” it said.
It was also stipulated that Lynas will have to end all research and development activities related to the use of the radioactive WLP residue as Condisoil in the field of agriculture.
The company also has to contribute 0.5% of its annual gross profit, which was allocated for research and development activities, to the Malaysian government until the “cracking and leaching” facility overseas start operating.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad earlier said Lynas will be allowed to continue to operate in Malaysia, but it needed to present a plan on how it will deal with its rare earth processing waste.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin had then said the government will announce whether the rare earth producer has to repatriate its radioactive waste back to Australia.