Friday, July 1, 2011

TMI: IAEA report subtly slaps AELB, concurs with rakyat’s concerns — by Eye Wide Wide

IAEA report subtly slaps AELB, concurs with rakyat’s concerns — by Eye Wide Wide

TMI, July 01, 2011

JULY 1 — Has anyone actually read the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Panel Report carefully? It is available here.

In general, the IAEA panel has given the Malaysian government a red face! Malu besar!
As a guide, here are some points.

Firstly, amidst all the brouhaha, many may miss out on the caveat on page one of the IAEA report on Lynas:

“[A]t the time of the review mission, Lynas had obtained a construction licence for the rare earths processing facility and about 40 per cent of the construction had been completed. For clarity, the review team emphasises that the project documentation made available to it for review was related to this licensing phase only. The review carried out by the review team is not intended nor considered to be sufficient for the next licensing phases. Accordingly, the review team understood that updated document will, in due course, be prepared by Lynas and submitted to the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) for its consideration in terms of the subsequent licensing phases.”

So, the IAEA Panel did not really give the green light to the Lynas project. Only the construction project that is 40 per cent complete was reviewed. Moreover, there are no rare earths and no radioactive wastes yet onsite, thus the IAEA Panel cannot find non-compliance with radioactive-related issues. Yet.

 Secondly, the IAEA Panel review report, in fact, agrees with the main concerns of the Rakyat. The IAEA Panel had “identified 10 issues for which it considered that improvements were necessary before the next licensing phases of the Lynas project. “

The top of the list is that:

The AELB should require Lynas to submit, before the start of operations, a plan setting out its intended approach to the long-term waste management, in particular management of the water leach purification (WLP) solids after closure of the plant, together with a safety case in support of such a plan.

Six points were laid out for the safety case mentioned, i.e. future land use, dose criterion for public protection, time frame for assessment, safety functions such as containment, isolation, retardation, methodology for scenarios including where the residue storage facility (RSF) at Lynas site becomes the disposal facility for the WLP solids, active/passive institutional controls. And RIA should be updated accordingly.

The second recommendation is that:

“The AELB should require Lynas to submit, before the start of the operations, a plan for managing the wastes from the decommissioning and dismantling of the plant at the end of its life. The RIA and decommissioning plan should be updated accordingly.”

These are similar to the main concerns put forth by many of the people but mainly ignored and sometimes ridiculed by Lynas, AELB, Department of Environment (DOE) and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti).

In fact, the AELB and DOE had previously approved the RIA and PEIA, respectively. Thus, the IAEA Panel recommendations actually concur with the Rakyat in instructing the AELB and other Government agencies to do their work professionally!

The other recommendations further slap the AELB and the Malaysian government, pointing out their incompetence, inter alia:

“6. For regulating the Lynas project, the Malaysian Government should ensure that the AELB has sufficient human, financial and technical resources, competence and independence.

“7. The AELB and the relevant Ministries should establish a programme for regularly and timely updating of the Regulations in accordance with the most recent international standards. In particular, regulations pertinent to NORM activities relevant to the proposed rare earths processing facility should be considered to be updated.”

Thus, the IAEA Panel had admonished the Malaysian authorities in a subtle way. The IAEA Panel actually highlights the incompetence of the AELB and the other ministries.

No wonder the Miti and Mosti ministers were not personally there to make the announcement of the IAEA report findings! Instead, they uncharacteristically sent in the ladies to the front line.

I will not go into other details for now. Why don’t you read the actual IAEA Panel report yourself and see how Miti has embarrassed Malaysia internationally?

Lastly, the IAEA Panel has, to a certain extent, sided with the rakyat’s concerns. Now the ball is in the court of the government to execute the serious recommendations, including updating the regulations and standards to international level.

Does the government really care?

* Eye Wide Wide reads The Malaysian Insider.

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