Thursday, 16 February 2012

Lynas Issue: AELB's exemplary engagement and display of transparency with the public

AELB top man DG YM Dato' Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan

If you are looking for transparency and exemplary engagement with the public, look no further than our Government Agency, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board AELB, story from here:

AELB releases public feedback on LAMP

Stephanie Sta Maria
 | February 16, 2012
AELB says that the five conditions attached to the TOL reflects the public's concerns.

DENGKIL: In a move to fulfil the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) recommendation of public engagement over the Lynas Corp’s controversial rare earth refinery in Kuantan, the Atomic Energy Licencing Board (AELB) has begun releasing snippets of feedback collected during the public viewing of Lynas’ application permit.
AELB and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) approved Lynas’ application for a temporary operating licence (TOL) on Feb 1, just three days after the deadline for submission of public feedback.
Anti-Lynas groups slammed the decision as “hasty” and accused AELB and Mosti of completely disregarding public opinion.
In the first of a series of weekly media briefings, AELB said that it will make public five frequently asked questions each week, compiled during the public display of the Lynas permit. It will also explain details of the TOL and address any “misinformation”.
“The application permit received a lot of opposition,” acknowledged AELB director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan. “A majority of the comments however were one-liners protesting Lynas.”
“While it is difficult for us to measure emotional and unsubstantiated comments, such feedback is important as it shows that Lynas needs to provide a lot more information for the public to make informed decisions.”
Aziz pointed out that the five conditions attached to the approval of the TOL reflected public opinion which mainly pertained to the Permanent Disposal Facility, the financing of residue management and a third-party assessor.
“Remember that the TOL has only been approved and not yet issued,” he stated. “For that to happen, Lynas needs to make payments for the licencing fee and the first installment of US$50 million.”
“This addresses the financing of residue management in the event that Lynas goes bust. AELB has also drawn up specifications for the independent third-party assessor and we will be conferring with various professional bodies on this draft. Lynas will bear the cost of the appointment.”
“As for the facility, Lynas must provide a detailed plan and location 10 months after the licence is issued or it will not be allowed to operate.”
More than 70 conditions imposed
Aziz added that AELB has also imposed more than 70 conditions above these five and that two of those conditions involved two letters of undertaking from Lynas.
The first letter will hold Lynas responsible for any untoward incident arising from the operations of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP).
The second letter will place the onus on Lynas to return the residue to Australia in the event that its plan to commercialise the residue fails.
However, Aziz refused to entertain probes on media reports that Australia will not be accepting any of the residue back into the country.
“I don’t speak for Lynas or Australia,” he stated “And I have no idea as to what media reports you are referring to. But I will make sure that we receive these letters of undertaking.”
Asked if Lynas can be trusted to honour those letters, Aziz replied that AELB has records of trustworthy suppliers and he didn’t foresee any such problems.
“Malaysia’s law is very clear,” he stressed. “It will be very difficult for Lynas not to comply. And in any case, we have Plan B, C and D.”
Aziz also shot down rumours that Lynas has begun importing ore into Malaysia and reiterated that Lynas needs to apply for a separate permit for importation which it has not done yet.
He further assured that AELB will sample and verify the composition of each and every shipment of raw materials that reach Malaysia despite samples already been assessed in Australia.
“We never know if those samples are biased,” Aziz said. “So we will take Lynas’ assessment report with a pinch of salt and conduct our own verification.”
DOE official: DEIA unnecessary
Also present at the briefing was a representative of the Department of Environment (DOE), who dismissed calls for a Detailed Environment Impact Assessment (DEIA) as unnecessary.
Kuantan MP and Lynas’ most vocal detractor, Fuziah Salleh, earlier called for a DEIA as the Preliminary Environment Impact Assessment (PEIA) was flawed.
However, the Principal Assistant Director of the Evaluation Division in the DOE, Azuri Azizah Saedon, pointed out that everything in the PEIA has already been studied approved.
“The PEIA has already detailed the hazards involved in the LAMP operations and the report was displayed from May 30 to June 30 last year,” she said.
The restrictions imposed on the public viewing of Lynas documents.
The documents officially belong to Lynas (M) Sdn Bhd and are therefore subject to their legal rights over the protection of commercial information and intellectual property.
Lynas is the same as Asian Rare Earths (ARE)
There are some similarities as well as differences between Lynas and ARE. The raw material at ARE was amang while Lynas raw materials contain rare earth concentrates. They both contain uranium and thorium. However, the major difference is that ARE raw materials is 37 times more radioactive than Lynas’ raw materials and the ARE residue is 60 times more radioactive than what Lynas would produce.
Lynas is taking advantage of weakness in the Malaysian law by proposing China’s standards.
Malaysian law is equivalent to, if not stricter than international law. Lynas is subject to the Malaysian law and must comply with international standards and good practices.
Lynas declares the residue as non-radioactive based on China’s standard of 74 Bq/g.
Under Malaysian law,74 Bq/g is deemed radioactive and is therefore regulated under Act 304.
Does the plant increase my risk of contracting cancer?
Cancer could be caused by a variety of factors including high radiation exposure. Even though there is no concrete evidence linking low levels of radiation to an increased risk of cancer, the very low levels of radiation exposure arising from Lynas’ operations is still subject to strict radiation protection standards imposed by the AELB. This is to ensure the safety of workers, the public and the environment.

Kudos to the AELB for trying very hard to inform the misinformed.

Read another report from MI: 

AELB says engineer certified Lynas plant as safe

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