Monday, February 27, 2012

Experts contradict each other over Lynas | Free Malaysia Today

Experts contradict each other over Lynas

Stephanie Sta Maria | February 27, 2012-FMT

An epidemiologist shoots down a nuclear scientist's claim that the LAMP is safe.

PETALING JAYA: A public health scientist has rubbished recent assurances made by a nuclear scientist that the radiation levels due to be produced by the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) are within “safe thresholds”.

Last Friday, Hulu Langat MP Dr Che Rosli Che Mat reiterated that the LAMP was safe and should be allowed to operate as long as Lynas adhered to strict safety standards and regulations.

In an interview last year, he had reprimanded Lynas’ detractors for frightening the public by branding the LAMP a nuclear plant when it would only produce natural materials.

But Dr Chan Chee Khoon, who is also an epidemiologist, suggested that Rosli might have been unaware of the long-standing debate among radiation biologists over the adequacy and relevance of the models on which these “safe thresholds” were derived.

He pointed out that a expert panel in the United Kingdom was unable to agree on the health risks of low level exposure to internal emitters in 2004.

“Opinions among the panel members ranged from negligible adverse effects to an underestimation of risk by at least 100-fold,” Chan said in a press statement today.

“In short, nobody really knows at this point how hazardous the LAMP may turn out to be, given that much of the radioactive sold waste will be in powdery form.”

Chan reminded Lynas’ supporters that the Asian Rare Earths (ARE) refinery in Bukit Merah was similar to Lynas in that it had no long-term waste management plan.

“Ad-hoc arrangements including the aborted Papan dumpsite eventually led to a situation of indiscriminate, clandestine dumping of radioactive thorium-cake waste in and around Ipoh,” he said.

Lynas had yet to come up with a concrete waste disposal plan although the issuance of its temporary operating licence was dependent on its submission of a blueprint and location of its planned Permanent Disposal Facility (PDF).

The Australian mining giant’s plan to return the waste to the source in a worst-case scenario had also been cast in doubt after the Western Australian government repeated its refusal to accept Lynas Malaysia’s waste.

“The Kuantan community will face the prospects of unknown numbers of dumpsites at unknown locations scattered around Ipoh if Lynas doesn’t come up with an acceptable plan,” Chan warned.

‘Wishful thinking’

He also called Lynas’ plan to recycle radioactive waste as additives in the manufacturing of cement and gypsum products as “wishful thinking” and predicted that it would soon become a national issue.

“For the last 30 years asbestos cement products have been progressively phased out in the construction industry and Lynas is now proposing to add a carcinogen to construction materials,” he said.

“Will these products even be saleable when word gets out and people start wondering what’s drifting down from their ceiling boards and roofs?”

These are arguments that Chan had repeatedly put forth over the past year but had gone unheeded.

“In asserting that the LAMP was ‘unquestionably safe’, Rosli, Lynas and the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) have recklessly abandoned the precautionary principle,” he stated.

“The Kuantan-Kemaman community will end up as lab rats in a natural experiement.

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