As reported by The Choice, the report exhaustively runs through the known data on the proposed plant in Gebeng, Kuantan, and not only sets out 31 recommended requirements for the plant's operation, but also works to dispel the cloud of falsehoods that have descended around the project as a result of Pakatan Rakyat's efforts.The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) has issued its final report on the Lynas rare earths refinery, putting to an end one of the longest-running, and most shameful, sagas in modern Malaysian politics.
The report also gives its approval for the company to be awarded a temporary operating license (TOL) after finding that it has met all the requirements imposed by law to date.
Bowing to the obvious, the report made clear that Lynas has met every metric set by Malaysian and international safety standards. "The committee is satisfied that the project has complied with standards and laws in Malaysia which are in line with international practices. In fact, more stringent rules have been imposed on the plant than international standards," the report found.
Pakatan Rakyat has worked diligently to convince the public that the rare earths plant -- dealing in material with a radiation level lower than that of extracted petroleum -- is actually a nuclear power plant, going so far as to gag one of its own scientists who threatened to tell the truth and eventually did.
Of all the falsehoods told by Pakatan, exploiting fears of nuclear waste in the wake of the tsunami in Japan was arguably the most reprehensible. The PSC explored this allegation at length, completely rubbishing it. It found that workers at the plant -- who would face multiples of exposure that area residents would -- would be exposed to an average radiation dosage of two millisieverts (mSv) a year, a tenth of the internationally-recognised permitted dosage of 20mSv a year.
Where the public was concerned, the amount was a bare fraction of that. "The amount of radiation exposure to the public is 0.002mSv a year while the permitted dosage is 1mSv a year," it added.
An abdominal CT scan yields 10mSv during the hour of the scan itself. As of press time, Pakatan is not yet calling for CT scans to be banned in Malaysia.
The residue from the facility -- the last point onto which the Opposition had taken hold as its other objections were destroyed -- will be held to a standard harsher than almost anywhere else in the world. The residue's radiation should be below 1 Becquerel per gramme (Bq/g), well below Britain's level of 5Bq/g.
Extracted oil is only considered contaminated if it exceeds 30Bq/g. As of press time, Pakatan is not yet calling to ban Petronas.
Working to defuse more Pakatan Rakyat objections, the PSC proposed that a monitoring committee, made up of related agencies, non-governmental organisations and experts, be created to oversee plant operation; and that an environmental audit be conducted every six months by a third party agency registered with the Department of Environment (DOE).
The PSC also recommended a baseline health study to be carried out on the number of related diseases such as leukemia, cancer, congenital malformation, asthma and upper respiratory tract infection.
Finally, the PSC recommended that Lynas set aside 1 per cent of its gross annual sales for research and development, of which half should go towards research on residue management.
In a rational world, that would conclude the matter. The Opposition has so polluted this debate that it cannot be said to take place in a rational world. There is now talk of suing Lynas in Australian courts to stop the operation of a plant here, despite easily clearing every standard set forth in Malaysian and international law.
PKR has already made clear that the plant will be a lead ceramah topic in the leadup to GE13. Not even Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim knows how he will demagogue this issue next.
The entire episode is a sad testament to the Opposition's willingness to terrify and mislead the rakyat merely to win a minor political battle. Politics, by nature, frequently involves exaggeration, but what Pakatan Rakyat has done over the months and months of pitched battles over the plant is not exaggeration, it is outright lying and manipulation.
No reputable scientist in Malaysia or abroad has given any support to the fevered objections the Opposition has put forward, but they have nevertheless poisoned the minds of area residents with fears of nuclear meltdowns and poisoned land and water.
The question now is not whether the plant will go into full operation -- it will -- but whether the voters will punish the Opposition for this campaign of baseless terror when GE13 is called.