AELB: Lynas licence not issued yet

Posted on February 3, 2012. Filed under: Pollution |

-Free Malaysia Today-

It also says that the TOL will answer the public’s questions on safety and whether the LAMP meets national and international regulations.

DENGKIL: The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) today clarified that Lynas Corporation has yet to be issued a Temporary Operating Licence (TOL).

The TOL, which was approved on Wednesday, would only be issued once Lynas made the required payments and the AELB appointed an independent, third-party assessor.

These payments comprise the licencing and processing fees, the first instalment of the US$50 million to the Malaysian government and the cost of AELB’s third-party assessor.

At a media briefing at its headquarters in Dengkil this morning, AELB director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Adnan confirmed that until the first instalment of US$10 million is made the licence would not be issued.

The US$50 million was one of the five conditions attached to the approval of the two-year TOL and would be made in five instalments to the government.

“The money will be deposited with the Malaysian government but it is not the property of the government,” Aziz explained.

“But the board will be able to use it in case of unwarranted incidents like if Lynas ceases operations after two years. Then we will have the financial assurance and guarantee to take care of any residue produced.”

Asked if there was a deadline for the first instalment, Aziz said it was dependent on how soon Lynas wanted to begin operations in Gebeng.

“As for the appoiment of the third-party assessor we have begun the process and hope to complete it within this,” he assured.

“What is important is that this third party is recognised by other regulatory authorities and has experience in chemical plants. So we will be working to our schedule and not that of Lynas.”

Aziz’s ensuing explanation of the difference between a TOL and an operating licence, however, might raise more concerns over the safety of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP).

He said Lynas’ documents had already underlined the safety of the LAMP but also acknowledged that this information could be based on other plants, pilot studies or laboratory experiments.

“In a new plant it is normal for regulatory authorities to have a TOL to verify whether the claims in the safety documents are actually what they claim to be,” Aziz said.

“We hope that by the end of the two years we will be able to further answer public questions on safety and whether the LAMP is within the limits of national and international regulations, and best practices.”

This statement would not go down well with anti-Lynas groups who were accusing Lynas and the government of making lab rats out of Kuantan residents.

TOL – not an automatic route

Aziz also emphasised the importance of the TOL stage and that it was not an automatic route towards Lynas receiving an operating licence.

For that Lynas would require another submission of documents which will be updated with the date collected during the TOL duration. These documents will then be subject to another round of reviews and evaluations.

“So please do not confuse the TOL with the next stage which is not on the table right now and not under consideration,” Aziz said.

He added that the TOL was also not an open licence for Lynas to provide lanthanides and reminded the media that a separate permit is required for each importation of ore concentrate.

Another of the five conditions was for Lynas to provide a detailed plan and location of its proposed Permanent Disposal Facility (PDF) to the AELB within 10 months of the licence issuance.

While Lynas has yet to identify the location of the PDF, Aziz stated that Gebeng would not be accepted as one of them and that the facility would require a separate permit.

He also assured that the government was well-equipped to deal with any untoward incidences involving waste material and pointed out that Lynas was not the country’s first mineral processing facility.

“Malaysia was once the world’s top producer of tin and tin contains uranium and thorium as well,” Aziz said. “So we have the experience and expertise to handle any scenario.”

Under the TOL, Lynas would have to assume full responsibility for the residue management including returning it to the original source if necessary.

But Australia had already stated that it would not accept any of the residue back into the country.

Aziz declined to comment on this and instead said Lynas would have to show evidence of the “principles” that it put forth in its Radioactive Waste Management Plan.

“We need to see the profiling and location of the PDF,” he repeated. “And that the principles are engineered to suit the location.”

Meanwhile, when grilled on the AELB’s apparent disregard for the 1,123 public comments on Lynas’ document, he hesitated and then replied that the public review shouldn’t be seen as a public survey.

“Some comments posed good legal and technical points which we have taken into consideration,” Aziz said. “The public review is in fact uprecedented as AELB has no such provision.”

Lynas last week announced that it had raised US$225 million (RM700 million) in bonds to complete Phase One of the plant and would be delaying operations to the second quarter of the year.

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