DENGKIL, April 12 — Lynas Corp will be permitted to sell and export materials produced at its rare earth refinery in Gebeng during the plant's trial run, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) said today.
The nuclear regulator said this would be subject to the products passing AELB and the Department of Environment's (DoE) safety checks if and when the temporary operating licence (TOL) is issued to the Australian miner.
"We have no problems, so long as we clear the products and it is safe," he told reporters at AELB headquarters here.
But AELB director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan stressed that it would be in Lynas' interests to obtain a full licence as soon as possible because it will not be commercially viable to run the plant on a TOL.
This was because under the TOL, Lynas will have to keep paying AELB and the as-yet unnamed third-party assessor for regular assessments.
"The third-party assessor, for two years it's about five-point-something million. They are still paying for my assessment. If they want to pay for my assessment, it will be very expensive.
"The fee was RM1.2 million just to read the books (submitted during application). So it's expensive. Temporary operating licence is not a way to operate a company," he said.
Raja Abdul Aziz also said Lynas would be given chance to improve the operational safety of its plant during the test phase, adding that AELB would not issue a full operating licence until all standards have been met.
He added there was no set time limit for these safety improvements, pointing out that Lynas will have to apply for another two-year TOL if it cannot implement the changes requested during the current TOL period.
He stressed, however, that AELB will not hesitate to suspend the TOL and close down the plant if Lynas is found to have seriously breached safety regulations.
"Depending on the severity of the failures we can... stop operations or, if it's less severe and minor in nature, we will ask them to take the appropriate action," he said.
Critics allege that Lynas Corp has failed to give enough assurances on how it will handle the low-level radioactive waste that will be produced at the plant, some 25km from Kuantan city centre.
But the Australian miner maintains that waste from the Gebeng plant will not be hazardous and can be easily recycled for commercial applications.
Parliament approved a select committee on Lynas on March 20 amid opposition furore over its terms of reference and suspicion that the nine-man panel will be used to "whitewash" the issue.