The Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) Director Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan has said that the AELB was seeking the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to select experts to study the safety of the Lynas rare earth plant project in Gebeng.
Firstly the IAEA was set up to promote the use of nuclear energy and to act as a policeman to check whether a country is conducting a covert nuclear weapons programme. In fact the IAEA helps developing countries in their plans to build nuclear power plants. As such it lends support to the nuclear industry and its expansion world wide.
Given its mandate it would be fanciful to imagine that the IAEA will be in a position to put together an international panel of ‘independent experts’ to carry out a conclusive study.
Similarly the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) was set up under the Atomic Energy Licensing Act 1984 (Act 304) to regulate the use of nuclear power. AELB’s role is therefore to support and promote the development and use of nuclear power and its related activities in the country.
AELB had issued the licence to Lynas to build and operate the rare earth processing plant, fully aware that radioactive throrium waste will be produced. AELB will even open a branch office in Gebeng.
Secondly the government is planning to build two nuclear reactors. This ties in neatly that there is a high probability that the government will use the thorium as fuel for the planned nuclear reactors.
Bearing in mind that Malaysia is not in favour of the international centralised uranium or plutonium bank, this will be a golden opportunity to have access to limitless quantities of thorium right in our backyard to fuel the planned nuclear reactors. This will also mean that the reactors would most likely be sited in the Kuantan area or nearby. (A recent press report revealed that one of the nuclear plants will be based in Temerloh).
Thirdly, thorium can be used to produce uranium. Thorium can be combined with americium to make portable nuclear reactors. However, americium is reportedly as hazardous as plutonium if not more. It will be a deadly and terrible mistake if we take this path to produce nuclear power plants.
So before we consider an international panel of ‘independent experts’ the government must come clean on why it allowed Lynas to build and operate the rare earth plant and why is Lynas so confident that the one month review of its plant will reconfirm its safety.
Press statement, 26 April 2010