Radioactivity problem in wastes from rare earths processing

Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream  Aliran,   19 December 2012 by Wendy Bacon ”    ……While Lynas says it is confident in the current by-product plans, they are yet to be tested. Dr Peter Karamoskas, who has been a nuclear radiologist for 13 years and represents the Australian public on the Radiation Safety Committee of Australia’s nuclear safety agency, shares none of that confidence.

Speaking on his own behalf, Karamoskas said that to be safe more than a million tons of WLP residue with a radioactive reading of 6Bq have to be mixed with five times the amount of aggregate to reduce its reading to 1Bq. While he said that a similar process had been used in the Netherlands, the waste was far less radioactive, sitting near 1Bq, which is the threshold for safety.

Karamoskas said it has never been used with material with the Lamp WLP reading of 6Bq. He says that it is extremely unlikely to be a long term solution from a safety or economic point of view: “If this was all ready to go they would be trumpeting it in the public arena … already it looks slippery. If this was possible wouldn’t most countries around the world be doing it?” He thinks it is extremely unlikely that the road mix could be imported, other than to a country with “lax standards” because it would breach international best practice standards.

Karamoskas and the NTN operate on the precautionary principle used in European environmental regulation (and increasingly elsewhere) — you don’t go ahead until you have evidence that processes are safe, which in the case of Lynas is for thousands of years.

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, a medical doctor and well respected opposition socialist MP, wrote a long piece explaining the Lamp risks in Malaysian independent outlet Malaysiakini, “Is the anti-Lynas movement being unreasonable?”…….

In the commercial world, the precautionary principle is not playing. “Resolving the residue disposal is a risk down the track,” Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Terry told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last week, adding that the company’s priority in the coming months should be on getting the plant up and running and completing its first sales….

As Karamoskas put it, the Malaysian public should not rely on Lynas staying in business for the long haul. It needs “credible long term plans” because if Lynas does not stay in business, “the Malaysian public will be left to deal with its problems for thousands of years”.

Lynas has sued members of the Save Malaysia Stop Lynas campaign for defaming the company. This case will be heard early next year along with an appeal against the lifting of the stay on the licence and another application for a judicial review of the granting of the licence lodged yesterday.

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