Fears over Lynas plant unfounded

KUALA LUMPUR: The public’s fear of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant is because of the belief that in the event of a meltdown at the rare earth facility, the radiation exposure poses a threat to the comnmnity, said an expert at the Parliamentary Select Committee public hearing on Lynas yesterday.

Oncologist Prof Dr Fuad Ismail said the public should read up on the subject instead of relying on hearsay as most of the claims were unfounded.

"For example, claims of radiation exposure from the Bukit Merah plant (Perak) resulted in cancer deaths. There has been no spike in cancer cases in the area and if there were, the medical circle will certainly know about it.

"Such cases would have surfaced 10 years after the area was sealed (the rare earth incident in Bukit Merah was between 1982 and 1985)," he said.

Dr Fuad was one of nine experts who gave their views. findings and recommendations on the plant’s operations, including the use of thorium. levels of radiation. waste management and the link between cancer and radiation.

This is the last of the three PSC public hearing on Lynas. The final report will be tabled in Parliament on June 14. Parliament will convene on June 11.

Radiology and environmental expert Prof Dr Ahmad Termizi Ramli said the general perception was that the high levels of radioactive waste would result in deaths.

"The Lynas plant will only produce one millisieverts (mSv) per year as required by law compared with the existing 2.4mSv background radiation already present in the air.

"Logically, if the dose at this level can cause extensive impact to humans, no human being will exist on earth except for mutants." Nuclear physicist Dr Abdul Rahman Omar said the thorium 232 found in the Lynas waste had a long half-life of 14 billion years and was much less radioactive.

He said exposure to low-level radiation from rare earth production was not fatal and would be have any effect only if it entered the body.

"For example, a person will have to consumer 2,000kg of processed rare earth to ingest 0.3mg of thorium before it becomes fatal." National Professors’ Council representative Professor Datuk Dr Proom Promwichit said the project was safe, but stressed on the need for strict enforcement.

Date: Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Resource: The New Straits Times, Page: 8

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