Wednesday, June 1, 2011

IAEA panel confident Lynas plant won’t harm residents
May 31, 2011

The Lynas Gebeng plant under construction in this March 19 file picture. — Picture by Choo Choy May
KUANTAN, May 31 — The international expert panel reviewing the controversial Lynas rare earth plant believe that radiation from the RM700 project can be controlled, the Kuantan Coalition of Chinese Associations said today.

Chairman Datuk Chow Liong told reporters after meeting the International Atomic Energy Agency-led (IAEA) team that he had raised the issue of residents — some 700,000 within a 30km radius — living close to the refinery in Gebeng.

“The panel said that the plant will not harm residents no matter how near they live if it is properly controlled. They said they will look at ways to control and there is normally no risk to residents with this sort of industry,” said Chow, who leads the coalition of about 50 Chinese bodies in Pahang’s capital.

Putrajaya bowed to public pressure last month and put the project on ice pending the review by international experts.

The nine-man team has been in Kuantan to meet local stakeholders over the past two days before submitting recommendations to the government by the end of June.

Despite the government review, Lynas expects no delay to its plans to begin operations in September as it maintains the plant is safe.

It is anticipating a windfall of RM8 billion a year from 2013 onwards from the rare earth metals that are crucial to the manufacture of high-technology products such as smartphones, hybrid cars and bombs.

Chow also said that he asked how public safety would be guaranteed in the event of human error but was not given any reply as the panel did not want to comment on policy matters.

Another plant opened in Bukit Merah, Ipoh in the 1980s but was shut down nearly 20 years ago after several people suffered cancers, believed to be due to the rare earth processing facility.

Despite this, another eight cases of leukaemia have been linked to the plant over the past five years, seven of which were fatal.

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