LYNAS STILL SAFE
Safe radiation levels disprove opposition’s claims, says vice-president
FIVE years into its operations, the Lynas rare earth refinery in Gebeng here has proven to be safe with no threats of dangerous radiation levels permeating the plant’s surroundings.
Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd vicepresident and managing director Datuk Mashal Ahmad said the outcome was a strong rebuttal to the allegations raised by the opposition in the run-up to the 13th General Election (GE13) in 2013.
He said the millisieverts per year (mSv/y) measured showed there was no spike in the absorption of radiation in the human body. He said the current readings were from natural sources, which include rocks and soil.
“The readings of 0.69 mSv/y at the Lynas plant and 1.19 mSv/y in Kuantan are caused by natural background radiation. These are the same readings even before (the Lynas plant) started operating five years ago.
“Since the readings today are the same before Lynas existed, it proves that Lynas did not contribute or add any radiation (to the environment),” said Mashal.
The international Atomic Energy Agency had capped the safe maximum radiation exposure at 20 mSv/y.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the opposition had used claims of purported radiation leak at the Lynas plant as a campaign tool during GE13.
Najib said the opposition, however, had since fallen silent over the issue after GE13, proving that the rare earth refinery was safe, contrary to their claims.
Mashal said the radiation readings were confirmed by two units of Aerosol Monitoring System (AMS), which Lynas installed before the plant started operations five years ago to monitor and give real time readings of the radiation level in the plant and Kuantan.
He said the accuracy and independence of the AMS readings were assured as Universiti Malaysia Pahang was the custodian of the equipment.
“Lynas operates based on Malaysian and international rules and standards. Therefore, discussions on Lynas must be factual and based on said rules and standards,” he said when asked about the claims raised by the opposition.
Mashal said Lynas had spent RM2.7 billion to build the plant and spent RM300 million annually in operating costs, adding that the plant generated jobs.
“Lynas employs 587 permanent staff and 140 contract staff. Out of the 587 permanent staff, 569 are Malaysians, 11 are Australians and 7 fare rom other countries. Out of 569 Malaysian staff, 419 are from Pahang.”
Meanwhile, Kuantan Umno division deputy chief Datuk Seri Abd Hamid Mohd Nazahar likened the challenge to debate on the issue by former PKR vicepresident Fuziah Salleh as a cheap publicity stunt.
He said Fuziah, who won the Kuantan parliamentary seat in 2013, said the proposed debate against Najib would only “humiliate” her.
He said the challenge was only made after Najib revealed the disinformation spread by the opposition during the GE13 campaign.
“Fuziah had also (in an earlier statement) said she had never claimed the Lynas plant was a nuclear plant, but the prime minister in his recent speech (in Pekan on Sunday) had never mentioned her name.
“However, an opposition leader had described the Lynas plant as a nuclear plant,” he said yesterday.
Hamid was referring to an online video of a speech by DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who had, in a gathering five years ago, campaigned against the setting up of any rare earth plant in Penang.
Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd vice-president and managing director Datuk Mashal Ahmad (inset) says the Lynas rare earth refinery in Gebeng employs 569 Malaysians as permanent staff.