Perak radioactive waste site ‘safe’, says Ongkili

Ongkili said the Lynas refinery in Gebeng will be much safer than the ARE plant in Bukit Merah. — File picOngkili said the Lynas refinery in Gebeng will be much safer than the ARE plant in Bukit Merah. — File picBATU GAJAH, May 25 — The natural radioactive waste disposal project currently being carried out at the Long Term Storage Facility (LTSF) in Bukit Kledang, Perak is safe and complied with the scientific methods as well as the standard operating procedures set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said he was satisfied with the implementation of the project by Asian Rare Earth (ARE) Sdn Bhd, which was being monitored by several government agencies including the Atomic Energy Licensing Board, Public Works Department as well as the (IAEA).

“I think professionalism is in place in the project as far as how the decommissioning and decontamination was done. The only thing is we are about four months late. According to the contractor and consultant, the delay is due to cleaning-up work which required a longer period of time.

“Nonetheless, the overall project was carried out in compliance with the safety aspects and ensured all technical requirements were met,” he told reporters after attending a briefing session and visiting the project site here today.

Representatives of several government agencies including AELB, Chemistry Department as well as media personnel from Bernama and RTM participated in the two-hour visit.

Apart from the Bukit Kledang disposal site, the group of visitors was also brought to view the former Asian Rare Earth factory site in Lahat whose operations ended in 1994.

The waste disposal project for thorium and other contaminated materials from LTSF was the second phase which began in 2010 while the first involved transferring and disposing contaminated materials from the ARE factory site in Lahat, which was completed in 2005.

In this regard, Ongkili again stressed that the ARE project, which was carried out in the 1980s, was completely different from the Lynas Advance Materials Plant project in Gebeng, Pahang.

He said the level of thorium residue in the ARE project was 60 times higher compared to the Lynas project.

He added that the authorities in Malaysia had obtained useful experience from ARE to manage Lynas including from the policy perspective, legal, implementation and technical competency to ensure there were no untoward incidents in Lynas.

“Our experience since this project began is sufficient to ensure projects such as Lynas install basic scientific procedures, which can used to ensure Lynas is safe to Malaysians, especially the people in Gebeng,” he said.

Ongkili said phase two of the solid waste disposal project in Bukit Kledang was expected to be completed in 2016 before the site was handed over to the Perak state government.

The project is being carried out at a 5.9 hectare site where all workers have to comply with safety clothing as well as standard operating procedures set by IAEA. — Bernama


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