It appears the controversy surrounding the Lynas Advanced Material Plant (Lamp) in Gebeng, Pahang has just escalated with new claims that it is a danger to the environment.
The New York Times recently cited internal memos allegedly issued by current and former engineers on the RM700 million project, claiming that the construction is "hazardous" and has design problems.
The article claimed that the memos pointed out serious flaws, with engineers detailing structural cracks, air pockets and leaks in many of the concrete shells for 70 containment tanks.
The tanks are intended to store a slightly radioactive slurry - created after the ore shipped from Western Australia is mixed with acids.
It was also claimed that the steel piping ordered for the plant is made of standard steel, unsuitable to manage the transfer of the slurry, and that the storage tanks are of conventional concrete instead of the polymer variety, which is less likely to crack.
Local unyielding under pressure
The article also cited memos claiming that Lynas and its construction management contractor, UGL Ltd from Australia, had pressured local contractor Cradotex to proceed to install watertight fibreglass liners designed for the containment tanks, claiming cracks and moisture in the concrete containment walls are not critical problems.
Cradotex apparently resisted, with its general manager Peter Wan allegedly saying that the issues could potentially cause the plant's critical failure in operation, based on a June 20 memo.
"More critically the toxic, corrosive and radioactive nature of the materials being leached in these tanks, should they leak, will most definitely create a contamination issue," the article went on, quoting Wan in the memo.
This spate of allegations is possibly the most damaging yet to hit the controversial project, which has sparked near-weekly protests and galvanised a sustained public movement to stop it from taking off.
Almost immediately after the new allegations went public, Lynas called for a 3pm press conference at a hotel here today, where they are expected to counter the claims.