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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Radioactive pollutants migration to Malaysia's environment

Chipmunk, a commentator at Malaysiakini, made a very pertinent comment describing how radioactive as well as non-radioactive pollutants are propagated via air, water, and described very well how extensive it can be. His comment:

In the context of the Malaysian Lynas's LAMP plant the sources of rare earth element exposure would be from air emissions, fugitive dust and contaminated water discharges. Over the projected 10-12 years of operation of the LAMP the cumulative levels of rare earth elements (REE) can be expected to rise in the environment surrounding the plant as the REE migrate through fugitive stockpile emissions and stack emissions. These transport methods will deposit REE on soil and into the sediments of surface water bodies. REE will also migrate through wastewater discharges and leakage from tailings ponds. The Balok River sediment can be expected to act as a reservoir for REE due to deposition from treated waste water discharges.

Here is a summation of Chipmunk's comments in an orderly fashion:

Chipmunk: It is clear that no licence should be issued for the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) to operate until all of the issues related to the long-term management of the factory's waste and construction inadequacies have been resolved.

The issue of the pre-operating licence by the AELB on Feb 2, 2012 ignores this fundamental requirement and places the environment and public health at serious risk.

This proposal would not be approved in Australia without this information. Why the difference in Malaysia? What have the four ministers to say about this matter?

In the context of the Lamp plant, the sources of rare earth element exposure would be from air emissions, fugitive dust and contaminated water discharges.

Over the projected 10 to 12 years of operation of the Lamp, the cumulative levels of rare earth elements (REE) can be expected to rise in the environment surrounding the plant as the REE migrates through fugitive stockpile emissions and stack emissions.

These transport methods will deposit REE on soil and into the sediments of surface water bodies. REE will also migrate through wastewater discharges and leakages from tailings ponds.

The Balok River sediment can be expected to act as a reservoir for REE due to deposition from treated waste water discharges.

The matter of long-term disposal of the radioactive waste from the Lamp must be resolved immediately. When the entire decay chain radioactivity of the waste is accounted for, specific radiation levels are as high as 61 Bq/g.

This clearly places the waste in the low level waste (LLW) category for radioactive waste requiring isolation for hundreds of years.

The environmental and human health risk assessment of this radiation exposure is clearly inadequate and the disposal methods very poor in an inappropriate environment.

Under these circumstances, it would appear that environmental radioactive contamination and human exposure is unavoidable. This proposal would not be approved in Australia and the Malaysian government should revoke the TOL on this basis.

Lamp, which is expected to produce 22,500 tonnes per annum of lanthanum oxide equivalent, can be expected to generate annual waste streams of:

191.25 tonnes of fluoride compounds;
292.50 tonnes of flue dust particulate;
between 216 million m3 and 270 million m3 of waste gas (containing NOx, CO, SO2 ,HF, dust concentrate and H2SO4);
1,687,500 m3 of acidic waste-water and
22,500 tonnes of radioactive waste residue (containing water).
Historically, China has been the main global producer of rare earths accounting for up to 90 percent of global production allowing pollution to occur as a result of rare earth mining and refining.

The result has been severe localised environmental contamination in areas where these activities take place.

In turn, residents of these areas have reported high rates or respiratory illness, skin diseases, cancer and birth deformities.

So tell me Mr Curtis, why isn't Australia taking back this waste?

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