Raza Aziz says his board will not compromise on safety. — Picture by Jack Ooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — Lynas Corp has failed to meet any of the conditions set out by a government review despite filing three proposals so far to obtain a pre-operating licence for its controversial RM1.5 billion rare earth plant, according to the local nuclear regulators.
The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) told The Malaysian Insider yesterday that “all the conditions need fine-tuning” by the Australian miner whose refinery in Kuantan has raised fears of radiation pollution among local residents and environmentalists.
“They need to provide more details. We can’t compromise on safety,” AELB director-general Raja Datuk Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan said.
In an interview yesterday, he had said that the board has sent back “three revisions and we are looking at the fourth one.”
In July, the government agency adopted 11 recommendations set out by an International Atomic Energy Agency-led (IAEA) review of the refinery.
It has said it will not allow Lynas to begin operations or import rare earth ore until all 11 conditions, which include a comprehensive, long-term and detailed plan for managing radioactive waste that covers decommissioning and remediation, are met.
Lynas is directly responsible for meeting four of the 11 conditions, which are:
1. To submit, before the start of operations, a plan setting out its intended approach to the long term waste management, in particular management of the water leach purification (WLP) solids after closure of the plant, together with a safety case in support of such a plan.
2. To submit, before the start of operations, a plan for managing the waste from the decommissioning and dismantling of the plant at the end of its life.
3. To make the necessary financial provision for establishing a fund for covering the cost of the long-term management of waste including decommissioning and remediation.
4. To intensify its communication with interested and affected parties in order to demonstrate how it will ensure the radiological safety of the public and the environment.
Lynas’s projection of its plant licence approval has irked Mustapa. — File pic
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamad has already slammed Lynas for pre-empting the government by repeatedly projecting start dates for the plant being built in the Gebeng industrial zone.
“They have no business to pre-empt the (Atomic Energy Licensing) board. No business at all to issue these kind of statements and we have reprimanded them,” Mustapa told The Malaysian Insider in an interview last week.
Lynas earlier projected it would be given the go-ahead from AELB by the fourth quarter of this year.
But Putrajaya last week said it asked for changes and additional information on September 19 from the Sydney-based firm with regard to its safety submissions.
Abdul Aziz revealed today that the September 19 request was for a fourth draft, which was only handed in last week.
Having shed more than half its value on the Australian Securities Exchange over the past six months, Lynas was reported last week to be expecting a pre-operating licence “by the end of the year and it could come before analysts make a planned visit to the plant this month.”
“‘Slight delays’ at its controversial Malaysian refinery will not affect its plans to supply rare earths to customers by the first half of next year,” Australian daily Sydney Morning Herald said on November 1.
Lynas has refuted claims of potential radiation pollution, assuring Kuantan residents they would face “zero exposure” unlike an earlier Japanese rare earth refinery near Ipoh that was still conducting a clean-up nearly 20 years after it was shut down.
Despite a clause in the Atomic Energy Licensing Act stating that all information gained through the law must remain secret, Abdul Aziz also said that Lynas has “agreed to make their proposal public if we approve it for pre-operation.”
“The government has decided it will be transparent. So this is the fourth time we are looking at it. We don’t want to approve and then for you to comment that it is rubbish,” he said.