Categorised | Letters to the Editor

A response on Lynas

I’m writing in response to Gan Pei Ling’s article What’s wrong with a rare earth plant, here?

Factual inaccuracies on both sides of the Lynas rare earth plant controversy have given rise to a third constituency — environmentalists who believe in the possibility of a technological fix to the problem.

I take Gan’s recent piece to be one of the more fleshed-out statements of this emergent position. In the spirit of constructive debate, I would like to respectfully disagree with some of her assumptions.

Malaysia better than China?

Rare earths (public domain | Wiki Commons)

Rare earths (public domain | Wiki Commons)

Gan suggests we shouldn’t cry, “Not in My Back Yard!” because Malaysia can potentially produce rare earths to higher environmental standards than China. She also suggests that forcing Lynas out of Gebeng will place greater burdens on Chinese citizens.

But will Malaysia really do better than China in enforcing better environmental standards? In some areas China is raising standards to European levels, whereas in Malaysia some of our environmental quality guidelines are several times worse than the standards advocated by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Malaysia, for example, recommends an exposure limit of 320μg/m3 over the period of an hour for nitrogen dioxide. The WHO recommends only 200 μg/m3.  For the small particulate matter known as PM10, the figure for Malaysia is 150μg/m3 over a 24-hour period, whilst the WHO recommends only 50 μg/m3.

Alternatives to rare earths

Gan also implies that rare earth processing is inevitable as rare earths are increasingly crucial to electronic consumer gadgets and for green technologies such as wind turbines.

But this position begs the question — are there cleaner substitutes for rare earths that can deliver similar magnetic power-to-size ratios? This isn’t a question for Lynas to answer, but one that needs to go out to the laboratory-industrial complex.

Is the plant itself necessary? Can recycling of waste rare earth products happen in an economically viable and environmentally safe way? This may hang on the outcome of the US case against China at the World Trade Organization.

Can the manufacturing process be made safer? Sadly, despite having months to propose a credible permanent waste management plan, Lynas has nothing to offer.

This bodes ill. Lynas is to be the main plant outside of China. Presumably, rare earth refining in China doesn’t consider permanent waste management. So, to date, the rare earths industry has never come up with a permanent waste management plan.

The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB)’s poor track record in defending public safety in Bukit Merah and their obfuscatory behaviour in relation to Lynas also does not inspire confidence.

Economic benefit?

Lynas isn’t just a waste management and production problem. It’s also an economic one. Gan mentions jobs and repeats the government’s argument that downstream industries may benefit from its presence.

We already have downstream industries here. One is a Japanese company specialising in magnetising rare earth magnet blocks. But Malaysian companies typically only benefit from such arrangements by utilising cheap foreign labour to work in factories, equipped with foreign-owned technology. The financial benefits accruing to Malaysia would not be huge, especially if the foreign firm gets the 12-year tax holiday that has already been extended to Lynas.

This is just one problem that goes beyond Lynas and touches on our industrial policy. It is very difficult for Malaysian industries to move up the value chain. We should be wary of glib solutions that don’t address the economic context.

Taking developed countries’ waste

Lynas isn’t just Australia, Malaysia and China’s problem. This triangular geography detracts from the fact that the Lynas plant in Gebeng represents a very old practice of relocating toxic industries to Third World countries because our standards are lower and the lives of our people worth less. We aren’t doing China a big favour by hosting Lynas. Instead we would, in this respect, become China.

By putting this refinery in Malaysia, Lynas/Australia gets a neater way to bypass the Basel Convention strictures which restrict transboundary shipment of waste. In particular, it bypasses the convention’s Ban Amendment, proposed by none other than Malaysia, which opposes shipping waste from OECD to non-OECD countries. By siting Lynas in Gebeng they generate waste in situ, therefore no trans-shipment takes place and Malaysia is saddled with the waste. The “ship the waste back to Australia” proposal is a red herring.

I believe that minerals should be processed in their country of origin, especially if the country has advanced industrial facilities and environmental standards. I believe Lynas took advantage of the fact that its facility didn’t require public consultation under Malaysian law at the time. Early reports suggest that playing off different jurisdictions was clearly a factor for Lynas.

We should not play into the machinations of a corporation seeking to avoid or diminish accountability. Nor should we ignore our own culpability in consuming rare earth industry products. We should raise questions about planned obsolescence in such consumer goods and the difficulties and hazards of either disposing of them or recovering valuable components.

Radiation pollution

The fear of radiological pollution is not necessarily irrational since there are such victims in Malaysia. There is no safe level of ionising radiation above background levels, even if claims are made that Lynas waste is low level. In 2005, long-term studies by the US National Academy of Sciences determined that “the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.”

It may be possible that processed blocks of thorium can be safely handled by bare hands, but that hasn’t been the case in Bukit Merah’s history where people inhaled or ingested fine particles. The outlook for the Gebeng community is bleak as Lynas is silent on their long-term waste disposal plan. Bleaker still, that the Malaysian government is eagerly defending a company over the well-being of its citizens.

Stop Lynas

Himpunan Hijau (© Gan Pei Ling)

Himpunan Hijau (© Gan Pei Ling)

While we should push the Stop Lynas campaign to be better, we shouldn’t let perfection become the enemy of the good. Environmentalists need to realise that the Lynas issue is also one of human rights, governance, greed and transnational capital. I don’t think 15,000 people came out in Kuantan just for an environmental issue. Under the green was yellow.

Yin Shao Loong
Selangor government environmental policy advisor
27 Mar 2012

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34 Responses to “A response on Lynas”

  1. Save Malaysia's Ecomony - Save Lynas says:

    For an article which purports to set the record straight, it manages to come up with a few misreprentations of its own.

    The writer ponders whether Malaysian environmental standards are any better than China’s, using Nitrogen Dioxide standards as an example. But the writer doesn’t mention if the Lynas plant is even producing Nitrogen Dioxide. If so, is it in excess of ANY standard, let alone China’s? Surely it is the standards that apply to a LAMP that are relevant here?

    Interestingly, when the writer does get specific about environmental standards (permanent waste management), he uses it to lament China’s lack of of them. So it would appear that China’s standards ARE well below Malaysia’s when it comes to LAMP-related issues? Surely that is what the original article was focused on?

    The writer then tries to reignite the radiation hysteria by suggesting a fine dust laden with radiation will be spread by the plant. Is there a real risk of contamination by such means? I actually don’t know, but your article doesn’t help me understand that risk (or not).

    Finally, the economic benefits of the plant are dismissed on the basis that foreign companies will be used to carry out the “high-end” work. It is a self-defeatist argument – we have no skilled workers here, so we should not try to attract high-end businesses!? I fail to understand a better way to provide the opportunity for Malaysia to upgrade its “skill set” than to have foreign knowledge encouraged to invest locally. What chance does the country have if the foundations of such opportunity are not encouraged in the first place? And that is assuming foreign companies will be utilised – sensible government should do its best to ensure that where possible it is not the case!

    I am all for clarity of the debate, particularly where there has been a campaign of misrepresentation and hysteria, but this article does not help.

    • Stop Lynas 1st says:

      Do you know that Siemens has looked elsewhere for its hi-tech plant because of the Lynas controversy?

      No decent socially-responsible corporation will want to risk its workers’ occupational health and safety (OH&S) by locating its operation next to a risky hazardous plant like the LAMP.

      Increasingly, the supply chain of green-tech companies will be subject to the tight scrutiny of activists in advanced countries who demand for a clean cradle-to-grave track record of their products.

      The Lynas project is nothing but a burden and a raw deal for Malaysia.

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @Save Malaysia’s Economy – Save Lynas

      Funny how your reply appears to slightly change and put certain words into the writer´s mouth. [...]

      “The writer ponders whether Malaysian environmental standards are any better than China’s, using Nitrogen Dioxide standards as an example. But the writer doesn’t mention if the Lynas plant is even producing Nitrogen Dioxide. If so, is it in excess of ANY standard, let alone China’s? Surely it is the standards that apply to a LAMP that are relevant here?”

      – The writer was talking about the expectation that the Malaysian government will be lax in enforcing environmental standards. I think almost all Malaysians will agree with that.

      “Interestingly, when the writer does get specific about environmental standards (permanent waste management), he uses it to lament China’s lack of of them. So it would appear that China’s standards ARE well below Malaysia’s when it comes to LAMP-related issues? Surely that is what the original article was focused on?”

      – No, that was not what the original article was focused on. If the RE plants in China do not have any permanent waste management plan, and the LAMP in Malaysia does not have any permanent waste management plan and is allowed to operate, where does that leave Malaysia´s standards? Essentially no different from China´s. The fact remains despite your spin: Where is LAMP´s permanent waste management plan, and why did our gomen allow Lynas to go this far before holding back on the TOL? No different from any low-standard country, if you ask me.

      “The writer then tries to reignite the radiation hysteria by suggesting a fine dust laden with radiation will be spread by the plant. Is there a real risk of contamination by such means? I actually don’t know, but your article doesn’t help me understand that risk (or not).”

      – Well, maybe you could call Lynas and have them make public the LAMP´s permanent waste disposal plan. The writer correctly states that our distrust of the whole LAMP episode is reinforced by the fact that the gomen has allowed Lynas to go this far without even as much as having something as important as a permanent waste disposal plan [in the interest of] the well-being of Malaysians.

      “Finally, the economic benefits of the plant are dismissed on the basis that foreign companies will be used to carry out the ‘high-end’ work. It is a self-defeatist argument – we have no skilled workers here, so we should not try to attract high-end businesses!? I fail to understand a better way to provide the opportunity for Malaysia to upgrade its ‘skill set’ than to have foreign knowledge encouraged to invest locally.”

      – On the contrary, the writer said that we have no cheap workers compared with Indonesians or Bangladeshis. And is LAMP really a “high-end business”!? April Fool´s Day was five days ago. You appear to be confused between RE refinery and producing high-powered magnets. No wonder you fail to understand that LAMP is not a better way to provide opportunities for Malaysia to upgrade its “skill set”.

      “I am all for clarity of the debate, particularly where there has been a campaign of misrepresentation and hysteria, but this article does not help.”

      – Perhaps if you are not trying to spin and misrepresent the writer´s article, you will see less hysteria but more concerns.

  2. Tan Wah Sing says:

    I strongly support your well-written and concise argument. Human life should never be compromised for having such a plant. There must something wrong out there…

  3. Ng Ai Soo says:

    “Factual inaccuracies” when identified and eliminated will give rise to a “constituency”, as you put it, much closer to the truth… which is what members of the public would prefer. So I credit Gan for her attempt to do just this and also for the positive tone she adopts, exhorting us to improve and raise our game, in stark contrast to your response of “we are not good enough”, “can we REALLY do better”, “bodes ill”, “poor track record”, obfuscatory”, “our standards are lower”, “our people worth less” and so on. The hatchet job as prelude to “constructive debate”, perhaps, or are you trying to destroy a more truthful constituency?

    China has two Rare Earth industries… the illegal one here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/business/global/30smuggle.html and massive problems of enforcement, it seems. I agree with Gan that we can and should do better, and be vigilant not only with regard this industry, but across the board, evenly.

    Even before Lynas can operate, Molycorp has sold more that 3,000 tons of rare earths and turned over in excess of $300 million in 2011. Lynas is not now, nor will it ever be, the “main plant outside of China” as you claim.

    We have many years of experience in dealing with the waste from coal-fired power stations, ash-containing radioactive components in addition to toxic ones produced by the hundreds of thousands of tons yearly from coal bought from, among others, Australia. You know there is an ash pond at Kapar, Selangor that our Nature Society likes to watch birds at. And when we pulverise and burn coal, we release the entrained Radon into the air as well. What is Lynas waste in comparison? Why can we not apply the same type of management?

    (continued)

    • Ng Ai Soo says:

      (continued)

      Background radiation varies, from 8mSv/yr in Cornwall, >50mSv/yr in Kerala and >100mSv/yr in Ramsar, all places at which people have lived safely for generations over the millennia. Would you advise them to evacuate on the basis that “there is no safe level of ionising radiation above background levels”? What about the residents at Sunway, Sungei Besi, Mines Resort, Dengkil or other ex-mining land in Selangor? In Perak? Or is that increased risk small enough to ignore? What about the precautionary principle then?

      It would be irrational to avoid recommending evacuation, unless of course, “such victims” as we have here actually suffered other more immediate causes of disability or death… or unless that fear was, in fact, irrational with no bearing on actual observed damage (see “Evidence for formation of DNA repair centers and dose-response non-linearity in human cells”, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1117849108). This mechanism is the basis for safe medical use of radiation. In this Lynas issue, radiological pollution has been blown out of true proportion and unnecessary irrational fear mongered about the consequences.

      Plainly, the Lynas issue has been politicised and some of those involved are struggling to prevent a more truthful view from emerging.

      Ng Ai Soo

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @Ng Ai Soo

        “We have many years of experience in dealing with the waste from coal-fired power stations, ash-containing radioactive components in addition to toxic ones produced by the hundreds of thousands of tons yearly from coal bought from, among others, Australia. You know there is an ash pond at Kapar, Selangor that our Nature Society likes to watch birds at. And when we pulverise and burn coal, we release the entrained Radon into the air as well. What is Lynas waste in comparison? Why can we not apply the same type of management?”

        – Surely, it is the waste disposal plan that applies to an RE plant that is relevant here? Since coal-fired power plants produce wastes which are more toxic and radioactive than nuclear power plants, why don´t we specialise in dealing with wastes from nuclear power plants from all over the world? After all, we have many years of experience in dealing with the waste from coal-fired power stations!

        “Background radiation varies, from 8mSv/yr in Cornwall, >50mSv/yr in Kerala and >100mSv/yr in Ramsar, all places at which people have lived safely for generations over the millennia.”

        – Why don´t you give the background radiation in and around Malaysia? At least we won´t suspect that you have not done your homework. Surely, it is the background radiation in and around Malaysia that is relevant?

        “see Evidence for formation of DNA repair centers and dose-response non-linearity in human cells”

        – [...] Why don´t you quote the texts in the reference which supports your argument, instead? This is not a slogan like “1Malayia”, where you allow the citizens to fill in the picture of how they want to see “1Malaysia”.

        “Plainly, the Lynas issue has been politicised and some of those involved are struggling to prevent a more truthful view from emerging.”

        – I agree. The Malaysian government and Lynas Corp should have known that Malaysians are intelligent, that Malaysians do not trust the government, and engaged Malaysians in a truthful and transparent manner, instead of spinning the whole episode and saying that it was the Opposition´s agenda — which in itself is a further insult to Malaysians.

        Gua Mai Soo.

  4. vivatan says:

    I am a layman. Don’t understand all this “intellectual presentation”. I propose for those who support Lynas, have one of their family live within 5 miles from the site!!! [As] if [Bukit] Merah is not a lesson?? When are we going to learn??

    It’s a beautiful world! Only spoiled by “smart and educated living creatures”.

  5. Neptunian says:

    The issue of Lynas came about because both Lynas and the government were opaque from the beginning. The community was not engaged from the beginning and spurts of half-truths were provided only after protests were initiated.

    By doing so, both the government and Lynas lost credibility and trust. Example “Lynas sited the plant here because Australia lacks the skilled manpower required whereas Malaysia has an abundance of such”. Quote from press conference by Lynas – not exact words.

  6. ellese says:

    [...] This anti-Lynas proponents are misleading people for politics. They want to ban Lynas but a similar exposure [to] flying commercial lines tak mahu ban. A worse exposure in smoking tak mahu ban. Look at those who smoke. All these are pure rubbish. Then what about tin mining industry which also has radioactive exposure?

    They think people are stupid. People know eating bananas pun ada radioactive exposure. Man, even breathing pun. Why don’t they ban breathing?

    All these are [...] political partisanship destroying our nation.

  7. TNT says:

    I found the arguments by Yin of the Selangor government to be seriously flawed.

    1. Malaysia better than China? I read from Lim Kit Siang’s blog that materials with radioactivity of below 10bq/g are treated as dirt in the UK and Australia and are not subject to any special requirement on transportation. But in Malaysia we have to label it as radioactive. So going by Yin’s argument, Malaysia’s standard is lower than China’s but higher than UK’s and Australia’s. Isn’t that a good enough standard?

    2. Alternatives to rare earths. After so many words, Yin has no answer so I don’t know why he bothers to address this issue. Yin did mention the possibility of recycling etc but if that can solve the problem, why are Western countries now rushing to built new rare earth refineries in their own country?

    3. Economic benefit. Yin said we already having a Japanese company specialising in magnetising rare earth magnets thus implying there is no need for Lynas. He is confusing the end user (Japanese company) and the supplier (Lynas). They are not the same. If these end users are good for Malaysia, then I would have thought more suppliers like Lynas would attract more end users. Isn’t that the economic benefit Malaysia is looking for?

    4.Radiation pollution. May be Yin should consult DAP MP Fong Po Kuan who claimed in Parliament on 22 March that radiation at Bukit Merah is now at 0.2 ms per hour. And that is exactly the [level of] normal background radiation, so in effect MP Fong is now saying there is zero extra radiation from the Bukit Merah waste. Now I don’t believe the radiation at Bukit Merah is only 0.2 ms/hr but that is what MP Fong believes.

    5. Taking developed countries’ waste. We import coal from Australia for our power plants and that produces even more toxic waste than Lynas. So isn’t Yin getting his priorities wrong? Shouldn’t he be protesting against coal imports first and Lynas second? My conclusion is, Yin is protesting Lynas for political reasons and not for technical or economic reasons.

  8. ck says:

    I’d like to clarify some facts raised by Ng Ai Soo:

    ‘The waste from coal-fired power stations, ash-containing radioactive components in addition to toxic ones produced by the hundreds of thousands of tons yearly from coal bought from, among others, Australia. You know there is an ash pond at Kapar, Selangor that our Nature Society likes to watch birds at. And when we pulverise and burn coal, we release the entrained Radon into the air as well. What is Lynas waste in comparison? Why can we not apply the same type of management?’

    The radioactive level of the ash from coal-fired power stations remain at its natural radiation level. Meaning, it’s the same level as the mined coal. The burning process does not concentrate the radionuclide, thus the radioactive level has only minimum increment.

    However, in a chemical leaching process, radionuclide may become mobilised & migrate to dusts, scales & other process residues, leading to the accumulation of significant radionuclide activity concentration in the materials, even though when the radioactive concentrations in the feedback mineral are low.

    This explains why the amang of the tin mining has a higher radioactive level than the original ore. This also explains why out of the three main wastes from the simulated LAMP production, the water lead purification (WLP) solid waste has 62.3Bq/g of radioactivity as compared with the original REO from Mt Weld.

    Malaysia’s ONLY experience in handling REO refinery waste comes from ARE plant in Bukit Merah. & the record is disastrous!

    The radon gas released from the burning of coal is released into the atmosphere, high up in the chimney, where it’s diluted down to insignificant levels through moving air. This is the same as the radioactive waste water from Fukushima which was diluted by sea water, after it’s been discharged into the ocean.

    • Ng Ai Soo says:

      ck,

      There seems to be some obvious mistakes in your clarifications. Kindly make the necessary corrections.

      Ng Ai Soo

      • ck says:

        Ng Ai Soo,

        Do consider I’m one-eyed!

        Pls enlighten me about the obvious mistakes.

        • Ng Ai Soo says:

          ck,

          WLP activity is an order of magnitude at about 6 Bq/g.

          Read “Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste” at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

          Please remember that a 1000MWe coal power station generates 6,000,000 tons of CO2 PER YEAR in addition to 300,000 tons of toxic radioactive ash, classified as TENORMs in the US. For Kapar, see http://chimneysofmalaysia.blogspot.com/2010/01/chimneys-of-kapar-power-station.html and scroll down to where the cows are grazing on ash fields and trucks loading ash! That is a multi-fuel power station…for pure coal look at Tanjung Bin (>2000Mwe) or Jimah (1400MWe) or look at the Perak power stations. We are building two more 1000MWe coal-fired power stations.

          The radon goes up the chimney and being heavier than air, settles out down wind, if not washed out in rain, both as radon and as daughter products of radon decay. As you point out, the amounts and dilution do not give rise to concern. But do read the references on coal-fired power stations, the dirtiest form of electricity generation.

          So why not apply the same reasoning to Lynas? And if not, why nobody “Stops Coal” which has been going on here for decades? Already comfortable with it?

          Ng Ai Soo

          • ck says:

            Ha, you digged up this old article as I expected.

            OK, let me deal with the last first – radon.

            Let me ask you a REAL question – in many parts of the States, radon gas accumulates within the house through seepage from the ground. What’s the advice of the EPA?

            Most often the advice is to leave some ventilation gaps in the house for the radon gas to be dispersed and diluted by moving air!

            In the case of Lynas, dilution of the most radioactive water lead purification (WLP) solid waste is a very costly process & the effectiveness depends on the dilution agent used. In short, this is an infant science. Thus this item has to be stored back into the mining shaft as mandated by the W Oz state.

            So similar argument, as you mentioned in coal ash, CANNOT apply here.

            With regards the radioactive level of coal ash vis-a-vis Lynas wastes, I’ll give you a go in a following reply. (Hint – re-read the large volume of comments to get an insight).

          • ck says:

            BTW, my buddy led me to this comment on the same article you mentioned. On further reading, I think it nicely replies to your take on coal.

            Please check comment 16 by Dan M@06:19 PM 12/15/07.

          • TNT says:

            Mr Ng. Only a drunk will try to say he is not a drunk. Likewise, only a politician will try to say Lynas is not being politicised. IMO, all politician are the same regardless of which party they come from, BN or PR. Anyone who thinks BN are all devils and PR are all angels must have been born only yesterday. So the best thing to do is, we change them every few years.

            Personally, I don’t mind PR playing dirty because that is the very nature of politics. But I draw the line when it comes to scaring away foreign investors and to me, Lynas is one.

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ Ng Ai Soo

        You might as well not reply to ck. What do you think this place is — your own private little discussion forum with ck?

    • TNT says:

      CK, from what I read in Lim Kit Siang’s blog, the raw material coming from Mr. Weld has radioactivity of 6bq/g and the waste 6.2bq/g. Lim Kit Siang further went on to say Malaysia is crazy to label it as radioactive when advanced countries don’t.
      http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2012/03/14/lynas-what-were-the-iaea-experts-thinking-on-the-plane-home/

      I have seen and checked page 27 of the IAEA report. It is confirmed that Thorium below 10 bq/g is considered “non-radioactive” for transportation purpose.
      http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/pdf/lynas-report2011.pdf

      So the question we want to know is, are we worrying over nothing as far as radiation is concerned? And if we do have to worry about 6.2bq/g, then what do you propose we do about background radiation which are just as high?

      IMO, fear is one thing but irrational fear is another.

      • ck says:

        TNT,

        The radioactivity of the WLP from the Lynas simulation lab is indeed 62.3Bq/g. This is stated in Lynas RWMP, page 32.

        Radioactive effect is cumulative. The amount of dosage is just a booster lever. Higher dosage, speedy result – but most of the time, masked by other complications. Lower (how low???) dosage takes years to show & effect non-reversible.

        The understanding of low-level radiation effect is an infant science. Just the other day, there was a report about getting brain tumour due to radiation done on tooth extraction!

        Until this science is mature, there is NO such thing as irrational fear about low-level radiation.

        • Ng Ai Soo says:

          ck,

          Lynas RWMP also gives 5.92 Bq/g activity from Thorium and 0.23 Bq/g from Uranium. So the sum is just over 6 Bq/g unless there is another radioactive source worth 56 Bq/g somewhere there that has been overlooked. Unlikely!

          The point I was trying to make was that coal burning CONCENTRATES the impurities in the ash. I am glad that you did not disagree with that. There were many comments to the article in Scientific American comparing coal waste with waste from nuclear power stations, and some pointed out that the coal waste is RELEASED whereas the nuclear waste is contained in the fuel in normal operating conditions. In fact Dan also says “6000 Curies of radioactive material released into the atmosphere by coal plants last year” (in the US, see also http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html). Or should we “mine” the coal ash for uranium like in China – http://www.economist.com/node/15865280?

          The EPA classifies coal waste as TENORM (see http://www.epa.gov/radiation/tenorm/coalandcoalash.html) and we also see there that about 75% of ash is “fly ash” which is mostly precipitated electrostatically. But even with best efforts, 2% – 5% escape up the chimney (all the radon escapes since it is a gas not subject to scrubbing like NOx or SOx) unless the precipitators fail when all the fly ash enters the atmosphere. Now on the Malaysian peninsula we have more than 5000 MWe coal generation capacity. Assuming 24/7 operation, in a year, that is between 22,500 and 56,250 TONS of fly ash emitted yearly into our peninsula air. That leaves the disposal of the remaining 1,450,000 tons of ash and sludge from our power station’s premises every year. You have agreed that this is both toxic and radioactive… so what is Lynas waste in comparison? As I said before, we have been doing this for decades without protest on the peninsula… but “stopped coal”, all 300 MWe of it, in less-populated Sabah. Why not a murmur here… I have to agree with TNT that the issue is politicised.

          Finally, how do you account for this “Background radiation varies, from 8mSv/yr in Cornwall, >50mSv/yr in Kerala and >100mSv/yr in Ramsar, all places at which people have lived safely for generations over the millenia”? I could just as well find evidence that low-level radiation is good for health (hormesis)! There is plenty of irrational fear and you are adding to it.

          Ng Ai Soo

          • ck says:

            Pls check Lynas RWMP, if you can get hold of an original copy. They did display it at AELB on condition that you can read & hand copy only! LOL.

            BTW, radioactivity of a mixture of radionuclides is not a simple arithmetic sum. Please Google it (sorry, don’t know how to paste scientific formula).

            See my take with TNT on your Cornwall, Kerala and Ramsar logic. BTW, how do you know that these people have lived “safely for generations” over the millennia?

            Has anyone looked far back into their respective family trees to substantiate your claims?

        • TNT says:

          CK. IMO, fear of background low-level radiation is irrational fear because there is nothing you do about it.

          But you are right: low-level radiation is an infant science because people living at Ramsar, which has high levels of radiation, live healthier and longer lives. So it seems to suggest radiation is good for you.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation

          • ck says:

            Would you like to live in Ramsar?

            You seem to forget that the people living in Ramsar have been living there long enough to adapt. Their story of adaptation could be a long & painful one, except NOBODY has documented it. You only see the current Ramsar people as the end result of a series of long low radiation exposure & the consequent genetic adjustment. Did anyone look back long enough, three generations at least, to count the “corpses”, so to speak?

            Remember, those Nepalese Mt Everest climbers who could withstand a low-oxygen, high-altitude environment? Those climbers have gone through the same genetic transformation via generations of long, slow & painful physiological mutation to reach the current generation that could function well in such an environment.

            Are you proposing that the Gebeng people go through the same process, so that Lynas’s LAMP can be good for the economy of Kuantan?

            That’s provided Lynas lasts for the foreseeable three generations of Gebeng folks!

        • looihw says:

          CONFUSION ON THE SPECIFIC ACTIVITY OF THORIUM-232 IN ONE OF THE LYNAS “WASTE” STREAM…..6.2 Bq/g or 62 Bq/g?

          It looks like a lot of people do not have even the basic knowledge of radioactive concentrations and the various methods of calculating the specific activity of the radionuclides, especially of the series radionuclide.

          There are essentially two ways of doing this, one is the old-fashion way which uses the total activity and the other is the modern way currently in use and internationally accepted, and this uses only the concentration of the “mother” radionuclide.

          Old method: “Since each atom of Thorium-232 decays into 11 other atoms of other radionuclides (12 atoms involved), each Bq of Thorium-232 has been assumed to be multiplied by a factor of 10 and Bismuth-212 decays either into Polonium-212 or to Thallium-208 both of which then decay into Lead-208..so Po-212 and Tl-208 can be considered as 1 Bq only.”

          Quote: International Radiation Safety Expert Nick Tsurikov:

          “On this basis, if a material contains 400 parts per million of thorium – its specific activity is calculated as follows:

          a) Outdated method – 400 x 4.09 (specific activity of Th-232) x 10 (number of radio nuclides in the thorium decay chain) = 16,360 Bq/kg or 16.4 Bq/g

          b) International standard (IAEA, AELB and Australia) – 400 x 4.09 = 1,630 Bq/kg or 1.64 Bq/g”

          The Anti-Lynas folk are now using this old-fashion way of looking at specific activity to confuse the people.

          Because of all this, they claim that the Lynas “waste” is not 6.2 Bq/g but 62 Bq/g and Lynas has been misleading the people about the radioactivity.

          The truth is that nobody, except some of the Chinese in China still use this non-standard way of looking at specific activity of a series of radionuclide.

          The old method has been discontinued internationally since about 1997.

          Actually, when we use the standard description “Lynas waste has only 6.2 Bq/g”, we have already factored in the radiation from all the daughter radionuclides.

          For instance, all the dose coefficients given by IAEA of 0.39 microSv/hr/Bq/g for radiation at 1 metre from a pile of Thorium, and by UNSCEAR of 0.604 microSv/hr/Bq/g m for radiation dose from an infinite field of Thorium DEMANDS THAT WE USE THE STANDARD WAY OF DESCRIBING SPECIFIC ACTIVITY i.e. 1 Bq of activity in both a series or single non-series decay means 1 atom of the “mother” radionuclide decaying.

          So as far as the dosage in terms of biological effects is concerned, whether we use the standard 6.2 Bq/g or the old Chinese way of 62 Bq/g to describe the radioactivity of the Lynas “waste”, there is NO DIFFERENCE, as if we were to use the old Chinese 62 Bq/g, we will have to divide the IAEA and UNSCEAR coefficients by a factor of 10.

          Dato’ Dr Looi

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ TNT

        Wow, what a waste of your time and effort. The topic of discussion here is about the wastes produced by LAMP, and not the RE from Mt Weld. [...]

        • TNT says:

          KKK. You should read the entire sentence. No intellectual will read just a snip of a sentence to come to a conclusion. What I said was, the raw material going into the factory is 6bq/g and the waste coming out is 6.2bq/g.

  9. Ng Ai Soo says:

    ck,

    As I said, the Lynas RWMP gives those figures. For comparison, our monazite is >100 Bq/g, that is, tin mining residue lying about in Perak, Selangor and other ex-tin mining land.

    1 Bq is ONE radioactive decay event per second… so if a gram of material has 5.92 Bq due to Thorium activity and 0.23 Bq of Uranium activity, the total is just the sum. To have more activity in that one gram of material there must be another radioactive substance, in this case, with 56 Bq – about 10 times the activity of the Thorium content. Or is there some new science that seems to have been overlooked? I hope you agree this is just that simple. No need to cast unnecessary doubt on what is obvious here.

    continued –

  10. Ng Ai Soo says:

    - continued

    Oh, I see… you are saying the residents there have, over time and generations, mutagenically adapted physiologically to radiation! On what scientific basis do you say that the human beings at Cornwall, Kerala and Ramsar are mutants? Have they thicker skin than you? Would you like to go there and call them that? As I asked earlier, on the basis of your convictions, would you evacuate these areas immediately? What about from our ex-tin mining land?

    The fact is that all living creatures on the planet evolved from cells that survived billions of years ago when the background radiation was more than twice as high. So we already have cellular defense mechanisms to repair such damage, including damage from other sources like chemicals, provided that damage is not extensive. For example, we can tolerate a few painkiller tablets a day, but not hundreds in a day. The flouride in your toothpaste or chlorine in your water supply works similarly. Even water, which is essential to life, can be fatal in the extreme case. In the same way, we can tolerate low-level radiation, but not high-level radiation (see http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1117849108 which I gave before). In fact, there are health spas in Ramsar to enjoy a little radiation, as there are in Hungary or in the old mines in USA. Most spas which depend on hot springs are naturally more radioactive.

    Now you bring ancient corpses, which you yourself say have not been documented, to frighten people. Why not use real documented dangers rather than imagined ones? Believe me, there are plenty around, if you care to look factually rather than indulge in the political rhetoric, you know, “what if”, “could be”, “must have”, “go live there” and such… try reality, and perhaps a hot spring spa (there’s one on Kinabalu slopes), for a refreshing and positive change.

    Ng Ai Soo

    • ck says:

      [...] You acknowledged that “all living creatures on the planet evolved from cells that survived billions of years ago when the background radiation was more than twice as high.” Ok, now in reality, the same thing has happened to those residents of the areas mentioned. They have evolved & adapted over a period of generations to tolerate the current radiation level of their respective locations. BUT this came with a painful period of physiological changes, which lasts a few generations, till their current form.

      In short, the current residents of those areas are the healthy generation that their ancestors had paid for with their painful living conditions over the millennia.

      The point is you seem to deny the effect of low radiation & yet accept that radiation causes mutational changes. These changes are accumulative & protracted long into the future. Before a healthy generation comes about, there must be a price to pay. That’s what I meant by “..to count the ‘corpses”’!

      I think we should go back to Lynas’s LAMP, rather then playing with conjectures that you like to Google.

      Whether it’s coal, flying ash, “residue” from LAMP, they are all harmful to human health & environment. The degree of damages is subjective but nonetheless lethal over time. You seem to agree on this with the various examples that you had quoted. So what [gives]?

      Could it be because they are THERE, thus we MUST face them, regardless of our CHOICE? Thus if you say low-level radiation is OK, then walk the talk – follow my suggestion, go live with them for a change. I would stick to the level of radiation that I’m comfortable with.

      You don’t have to be cynical & playing argumentum ad hominem.

      There is no politicising on my part.

    • TNT says:

      I used to automatically discard what BN said and automatically accept what news sites like The Malaysian Insider said. But that all changed when I read TMI saying no Western countries will allow rare earth refineries in their own countries. I know that is a big lie and that was my wake-up call. I digged further and found the science those anti-Lynas people were pushing were full of holes. I would say I am very disappointed with ALL newspapers in Malaysia.

      http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/nothing-refined-about-the-lynas-suit-the-malaysian-insider/


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