Kebimbangan serius berhubung pembaharuan operasi Lynas (BM/ENG)

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[ENGLISH VERSION BELOW] Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) dan Persatuan Pengguna Pulau Pinang (CAP) menyuarakan kebimbangan yang serius berhubung keputusan kerajaan Pakatan Harapan untuk membenarkan Lynas untuk meneruskan operasinya untuk enam bulan lagi dan untuk sisa radioaktifnya kekal di negara ini.

Ini bermakna sekali lagi, satu lagi legasi toksik diwujudkan bagi generasi masa depan menderita, dengan tambahan kepada sisa radioaktif berbahaya sedia ada yang disimpan di Banjaran Kledang, Perak dari kilang Asian Rare Earth.

Kerajaan berkata keputusan Lynas itu dibuat berikutan kenyataan kerajaan Australia dan kerajaan negeri Australia Barat kepada Malaysia bahawa mereka tidak akan menerima sisa radioaktif water leach purification yang dihasilkan oleh Lynas dihantarkan kembali ke sana.

Ia jelas bahawa kerajaan Australia menganggap sisa Lynas amat toksik untuk diterima. Sudah tentu, apa yang menjadi ancaman yang tidak dapat diterima oleh rakyat Australia dan alam sekitar juga seharusnya dianggap ancaman yang sama kepada kesihatan penduduk dan alam sekitar di Malaysia.

Sebaliknya, dengan membenarkan Lynas untuk meneruskan operasinya di Malaysia, negara ini sekali lagi menjadi tempat pembuangan bagi sisa radioaktif – yang akan kekal berbahaya untuk generasi akan datang memandangkan thorium dan uranium dalam sisa WLP mempunyai jangka hayat yang panjang sehingga berjuta dan berbilion tahun.

Sebaliknya, daripada menutup operasi dan meminta Lynas menangani sisa toksik dan radioaktif, kerajaan membenarkan syarikat itu untuk meneruskan operasinya selama enam bulan lagi – tertakluk kepada syarat, yang menimbulkan lagi kebimbangan dan persoalan yang seterusnya.

Salah satu syaratnya ialah Lynas mendapat fasiliti pelupusan kekal bagi sisa radioaktif. Bagaimanapun, siaran akhbar kerajaan tidak menetapkan bilakah sisa itu akan dipindahkan daripada tapak sementara kepada fasiliti tersebut.

Sejak lesen diperbaharui selama enam bulan, bolehkah Lynas mencari tapak yang “selamat” dan sesuai dalam tempoh enam bulan ini dan juga melengkapkan proses lain yang diperlukan?

Paling penting, terdapat keperluan bagi penilaian kesan alam sekeliling dan penilaian kesan radiologi dilakukan mengikut undang-undang kita, yang tertakluk kepada rundingan awam dan kelulusan. Dalam perkara ini, kita harus memastikan bahawa tiada sebarang kompromi untuk ia dilakukan dengan sempurna, atau sebarang usaha untuk mempercepatkan proses tanpa semua perkara berkaitan keselamatan ditangani sepenuhnya.

Operasi Lynas seharusnya digantung sehingga ia memiliki fasiliti pelupusan kekal, memandangkan ia sudah pun mengumpulkan 580,000 tan sisa radioaktif. Dengan operasinya setiap hari, lebih banyak sisa radioaktif akan dihasilkan setiap hari.

Satu lagi syarat ialah Lynas perlu mengemukakan pelan untuk membina fasiliti cracking dan leaching di luar negeri, dan dengan itu memindahkan proses cracking and leaching jauh daripada kilangnya di Gebeng, Kuantan. Dengan itu, bahan yang dibawa Lynas ke kilang Malaysia tidak akan mengandungi bahan radioaktif.

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Bagaimanapun, fasiliti ini di luar negeri akan beroperasi hanya dalam tempoh empat tahun, daripada tarikh lesen berkuatkuasa, menurut siaran akhbar kerajaan.

Kami tidak faham kenapa kerajaan memberikan Lynas empat tahun untuk fasiliti cracking dan leaching di luar negeri beroperasi. Penguatkuasaan ini bermakna syarikat ini akan dibenarkan untuk menghasilkan sisa radioaktif selama empat tahun sehingga operasinya berpindah ke Australia.

Barangkali, sisa tambahan ini juga akan dilupuskan di fasiliti pelupusan kekal, dan ini bermakna sekurang-kurangnya hampir 1 juta tan sisa radioaktif perlu diuruskan selama berdekad ataupun berabad.

Dengan jumlah sisa yang banyak ini, ia akan menelan kos yang besar bagi menyelenggara fasiliti pelupusan ini. Kerajaan perlu menjelaskan jumlah kos menangani sisa termasuk:

  • kos membersihkan tapak simpanan sementara
  • kos mendapatkan, menyediakan dan membina tapak pelupusan kekal
  • kos menyelenggara tapak untuk sedekad akan datang
  • kos melepas kerana tidak dapat menggunakan tanah di persekitaran tapak itu.

Kerajaan perlu jelas bahawa Lynas yang akan menanggung kos menangani masalah sisa ini. Dalam kes ini, siaran akhbar kerajaan kurang menjelaskannya dan syarat itu perlu terkandung dalam perjanjian rasmi antara Lynas dan kerajaan. Ia tidak seharusnya menjadikan rakyat Malaysia perlu membayar kos menangani sisa itu.

Siaran akhbar kerajaan juga mendedahkan bahawa syarikat itu dihentikan daripada menjalankan penyelidikan yang selanjutnya dalam menggunakan sisa radioaktif sebagai perapi tanah untuk kegunaan pertanian. Langkah ini dialu-alukan oleh kami, memandangkan sebelum ini kami telah mendedahkan akan bahayanya kepada kesihatan dan ekonomi daripada penggunaan sisa itu.

Kesimpulannya, kami mempunyai persoalan dan kebimbangan berhubung:

  • membenarkan kilang untuk meneruskan operasi di Malaysia
  • tempoh masa dan proses bagi pemindahan sisa ke fasiliti pelupusan kekal
  • sama ada syarikat akan menanggung kos secukupnya bagi menangani pelupusan sisa
  • tempoh yang lama sebelum operasi cracking and leaching dipindahkan keluar daripada kilang Malaysia

Kami sekali lagi mengulangi gesaan agar operasi Lynas digantung sehingga isu ini diselesaikan dengan sempurna dan telus.

Meenakshi Raman ialah presiden Sahabat Alam Malaysia manakala Mohideen Abdul Kader ialah pemangku presiden Persatuan Pengguna Pulau Pinang.

English version

Serious concerns and unanswered questions over Lynas operations renewal

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) voice our serious concerns over the Pakatan Harapan government’s decision to allow Lynas to continue its operations for another six months and for its radioactive wastes to remain in the country.

This means that, once again, another toxic legacy is being created for future generations to suffer – in addition to the existing hazardous radioactive wastes being stored in the Kledang Range in Perak from the Asian Rare Earth plant.

The government says that the Lynas decision was made following the Australian government and the Western Australian state government’s statement to Malaysia that it would not accept the water leach purification radioactive residue produced by Lynas to be sent back there.

It is obvious the Australian government considers the Lynas waste to be too toxic for it to accept. Surely, what is an unacceptable threat to the Australian people and environment should also be considered a similar threat to people’s health and environment in Malaysia.

Instead, by allowing Lynas to continue its operations in Malaysia, the country has again become a dumping ground for radioactive waste – which will remain hazardous for generations to come, as the thorium and uranium in the water leach purification waste have very long half-lives of millions and billions of years.

Instead of closing down its operations and asking Lynas to deal with the radioactive and toxic waste, the government has allowed the company to continue its operations for six months – subject to conditions, which give rise to further questions and concerns.

One of the conditions is that Lynas secures a permanent disposal facility for its radioactive waste. However, the government press release does not specify when the waste is to be transferred from its temporary site to the permanent disposal facility.

Since the licence is renewed for six months, can Lynas find a site that is “safe” and suitable during these six months and complete other required processes?

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Importantly, an environmental impact assessment and a radiological impact assessment need to be done following our laws – which has to be subject to public consultation and approval. There should not be any compromise for these to be properly done, or any efforts to rush through these processes without all safety concerns being addressed.

At the very least, the Lynas operations should have been suspended until the permanent disposal facility is in place – as it has already accumulated 580,000 tonnes of radioactive waste. With every day of operations, more and more radioactive waste will be generated daily.

Another condition is for Lynas to come up with a plan to build a cracking and leaching facility abroad, and thus to transfer the cracking and leaching process away from its plant in Gebeng, Kuantan. Thus, the material which Lynas will bring to its Malaysian plant would not contain radioactive material.

However, this facility abroad will become operational only within four years, from the effective licensing date, according to the government press release.

We are unable to understand why the government has given Lynas four years to make the cracking and leaching faclity abroad operational. This effectively means that the company will be allowed to generate another four years of radioactive waste until the operations shift to Australia.

Presumably, this additional waste will be also disposed off in the permanent disposal facility – which in effect means that at least close to 1 million tonnes of radioactive waste will have to be managed for decades, if not centuries, to come.

With this huge amount of waste, there will be large costs incurred in maintaining such a disposal facility.

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The government should clarify the total costs of addressing the wastes, including:

  • the costs of cleaning up of the temporary storage site
  • the cost of acquiring, preparing and building the permanent disposal site
  • the cost of maintaining the site for decades to come
  • the opportunity cost of not being able to make use of land in the vicinity of the site.

The government should make clear that it is Lynas that will have to bear these costs of addressing the waste problem. In this regard, the government press release does not make this very clear, and such a condition should be contained in the formal agreement between Lynas and the government. It should not be the case that Malaysians have to pay for the cost of addressing the waste.

The government press release has also revealed that the company is being stopped from further research into using its radioactive residue as a soil conditioner for agricultural use. This is a welcome move by the government as we have previously pointed out the dangers both to health and the economy of such use of the waste.

In conclusion, we continue to have concerns and questions over:

  • allowing the plant to continue operations in Malaysia
  • the process and timeframe for shifting the waste to the permanent disposal facility
  • whether the company will bear the costs of adequately addressing the waste disposal
  • the long period before the cracking and leaching operations are transferred out from the Malaysian plant

We reiterate our call for the suspension of the Lynas operations until these issues are resolved properly and transparently.

Meenakshi Raman is president of Sahabat Alam Malaysia while Mohideen Abdul Kader is acting president of the Consumers Association of Penang.

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