Report Lynas: A Radioactive Ruse

Publication - August 29, 2014
Kuala Lumpur, 29 August 2014 - Greenpeace joined local groups calling on the Malaysian government to deny the granting of a permanent license for the Lynas plant in Kuantan, citing the grave and unresolved radioactive and environmental threats associated with the controversial rare earth processing facility.

The environmental group made the appeal a few days before the government was to decide whether or not to issue a permanent operating license to the Lynas plant, which has faced intense opposition from local groups since the facility started operating a few years ago.

The group’s demands were based on findings contained in its new report entitled ‘A Radioactive Ruse’, which highlights a number of concerns linked to the Australian multinational’s rare earth processing facility, including the company’s insufficient and dubious plans on how it intends to contain and deal with the estimated 6 million tons of waste, with at least 1 million tons likely to be and radioactive waste, that the plant is projected to generate over a production period of 20 years.

“We appeal to the Malaysian authorities to listen to the demands of local groups and deny the granting of a permanent operating license to Lynas. Our research on the issue reveals that Lynas has not been operating according to best environmental practices and standards.  As far as we know, the company has yet to come up with a convincingly safe and acceptable solution for its radioactive waste outputs, and this is cause for grave public concern,” said Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director.

 The amount of the waste generated each year from the Lynas plant could contribute significantly to background radiological exposures of workers and people around the vicinity of the plant and at its permanent disposal site, the location of which the company has so far refused to publicly disclose. Lynas’ possible planned use of a final disposal site for its radioactive waste in Malaysia directly contradicts earlier government demands that no radioactive waste should remain in Malaysia.

 According to Greenpeace findings, neither Lynas nor concerned government authorities provided sufficient information to the public and local communities about the potential pollution and risks involved in the plant’s operations.  The documentation provided by Lynas in order to obtain operating licenses from regulators for example, has not been made accessible to the public. Furthermore, the group accuses the company of applying lower environmental standards for its Kuantan plant, than would be allowable in Australia.

 “If Lynas were a truly responsible multinational company, it should adopt and observe in Malaysia, the same strict set of environmental standards and safeguards that it would be expected to comply with in its country of origin. The Malaysian government and public were also made to believe that no radioactive waste from the plant would be disposed of in Malaysia. This has now been exposed as a ruse, following reports that Lynas is now planning to “recycle” certain fractions of its radioactive waste stream into construction materials and other commercial product applications. This is a very dangerous proposition with the potential of spreading radioactive exposure rather than containing it, ” added Hernandez.

 “We hope that the Malaysian government will exercise greater caution and not allow itself to be deceived into believing that Lynas can find safe and beneficial recycling options for its radioactive waste,” he said.

 Key recommendations from the report include the following:

  1. [CLOSE THE LYNAS PLANT IN KUANTAN] The Lynas Corporation must close the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP) processing plant in Kuantan, Malaysia, until it puts in place best practice environmental protection protocols and conditions and comes up with an acceptable solution for the plant's radioactive waste disposal outside of Malaysia.
  2. [ADVANCE GREEN DEVELOPMENT FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA AND PROTECT ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH] In view of the above, the (federal) government of Malaysia must deny Lynas Corporation a permanent operating license, and prioritize the protection of Malaysian environmental and public health interests, modelling green development standards for Southeast Asia in the process.
  3. [AVOID DOUBLE STANDARDS – STOP EXPORTING POLLUTION TO OTHER COUNTRIES] Government of Australia and Japan and other stakeholders in the operations of the Lynas plant in Malaysia, must uphold the same environmental protection standards, as they demand for their own environment and populations. 

To download the report, click here