Friday, June 24, 2011

Malaysiakini - Take the radioactive waste back to Australia

Jun 24, 11 8:52am
your say'If the waste is not as radioactive as the Lynas boss says, why don't you ship it back to Australia and bury it in a big hole somewhere.'

We've made a big mistake, says Lynas boss

FellowMalaysian: In the first instance, why did the BN-led government allowed the Lynas plant to be set up without first engaging the public, especially after being forced to close the troubled Bukit Merah rare earth plant?

Lynas boss Nicholas Curtis is now trying to make amends. His explanations however doesn't hold water. The economics of shipping the heavy ore 5,000km away to Kuantan (or Kemaman, for that matter) will easily costs more than to maintain a team of workers working 800km in the Australian desert.

As the rare earth will not be shipped back for Australia's use, then wouldn't it make sense to process in a cheaper place where labour and transportation costs will be much cost effective? Why is Kuantan so judicious a place to Lynas?

The Fukushima incident has been identified by the Lynas boss as a perfect storm. I would say it's a heaven-sent wake-up call to the Malaysian people to take seriously the risks of radioactive exposure.

Otsuka Teruyo: The big white elephant in any discussion of rare earth processing is the radioactive waste produced.

Lynas plans to store the radioactive waste at the Gebeng site itself and is promising to "to reassure Malaysians that the radioactive waste storage facility, to be located in Gebeng, is safe. We believe that we have a residual storage facility designed to last 500 years, and it will not pose any hazard to anyone."

That's their solution for their radioactive waste. Do we accept it? A storage facility for 500 years when the half life of throium is 10 million years? You have a factory that last for 30 years and a waste disposal facility lasting 500 years, but the waste itself is lethal for thousands more years.

They pack up in 30 years but we are left with the waste for thousands of years.

Dr Spin: Admitting your mistake is a good first step, Mr Curtis. Your next step should be to stop assuming that you know more than the local community.

Your bias that the arguments against the plant are "emotional" while your own justification is based on "facts" is insulting and no basis for progress on the issue. May I assure you that there are competent people here, outside of government, who understand the "facts" and have good cause to oppose this plant.

I do not know if you have participated in public environmental safety planning inquiries before, but I and others here certainly have, and won our cases on merit.

Having made this first rather serious mistake, and taken so long to admit to it, how many more "mistakes" should we expect? It will take much more than mistakes and insults to earn our confidence.

Syam: The biggest issue here is the radioactive waste - where, how and how long are you going to store it.

In Finland, they are building the world's first permanent nuclear waste storage facility to last 100,000 years. You said that Lynas is going to store the waste for 500 years, are you going to be around to maintain it? Will Lynas last 500 years? Show me a building that has last 500 years in Australia? Are you going to build a pyramid in Gebeng?

If you say the waste is not as radioactive as others, why don't you ship it back to Australia and bury it in a big hole somewhere, instead of storing it in a facility that may not even last 100 years, and which is near where people live.

Vocal Malaysian: It still doesn't explain why Malaysia was chosen for this site, either in processing the ores or for storing the radioactive waste by-products.

They could have chosen sites closer to ore buyers if Curtis' argument was about market access. Or he could go to countries where labour cost is lower if he is concerned about labour costs.

Andrwo: This is extremely patronising. Yes, you can build the plant in the west coast of Australia, since you are trucking the raw earth to Fremantle port before loading it in the containers and shipping it to Kuantan.

What is the relevance about not selling it in Australia? Are you selling it in Malaysia too? You are shipping tons of raw earth to Malaysia for processing at huge cost. Doesn't it make much more sense to process the raw material before shipping the precious resultant metals.

So stop talking about facts when you are distorting facts to achieve what you want.

MySecret: Curtis, your mistake is similar to almost 50 percent of the Malaysians who voted for this government. We were taken for fools, led up the garden path and ended up with a mess of a country at the moment.

Like you, we are trying to fix the problem. I would advise you to cut your losses and make a graceful exit.

Kgen: Another Lynas mistake was to make use of thugs to intimidate the Save Malaysia NGO from making representation to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) panel. Umno was responsible for the thugs, but who paid Umno? They would never act on their own without financial motivation.

Frankly, if I were a Kuantan resident I would move away as soon as the plant starts operating. Safety regulations are only as good as their enforcement and the Department of Environment (DOE) is very corrupt and lax, so there will be practically no enforcement.

Oscar Kilo: Nicholas Curtis was quoted as saying, "Kemaman is too isolated. Gebeng is a much more correct place."

But isn't an isolated place a better place to build a rare earth plant that generates radioactive wastes, no matter how low level the radioactivity is? The more isolated, the better. They should be thinking of buffer zones in the tens of kilometres. Perhaps they should build the plant in the middle of an oil palm estate in Pekan.

Curtis is obviously not telling us the whole story. It is very hard to dialogue sincerely when we're being told only half the story. He may not be lying outright, but telling half truths is just as bad.

Perhaps Curtis could start the ball rolling in this "dialogue" by revealing to us the deal between Lynas and Umno politicians. Yes, we want to know the facts. Give us all the numbers and figures. Then we can decide if the risk is worth it.

We, the people, should not pay the external costs for Umno and Lynas to profit from the plant.

Pemerhati: The Malaysiakini report says, "Curtis dismissed suggestions that the plant was not built in Australia, where the rare earth mine is located, because of public protest."

In that case, the whole problem can be easily solved. All Lynas has to do is take all the radioactive waste back to Australia and store it in some isolated area. Everyone will be happy.

Wira: The reason why they don't allow you to build that plant in Australia is because when you refine the ore, you also concentrate the radioactivity in the wastes and there is no way Australia will allow you to store that kind of wastes in your home country.

You are wishful that Malaysians may be more gullible because politicians here can be convinced by money and contracts.

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