Lynas Issue by Dr. HW Looi >>>

Let’s de-politicise the Lynas issue by Stop Lynas Coalition and its reply by Dr. Looi in The Sunday Daily

THE majority of us anti-Lynas people feel offended by the insistence that the issue is politicised. I wish to raise three main issues in this letter and request that the government gives them befitting consideration so that we can de-politicise this Lynas issue.

The radiation risk

The radiation safety aspect of LAMP (Lynas Advanced Material Plant) is legitimised by the IAEA’s (International Atomic Energy Agency) review. However, increasing number of scientific literature points to a strong possibility that the IAEA model may have underestimated the risk of internal emitters, which are radioactive sources that are inhaled or ingested. This hypothesis is not merely based on correlation type studies, but is backed with sound scientific reasoning.

Thorium accumulates in the body. According to the “Radiological and Chemical Fact Sheets to Support Health Risk Analyses for Contamination”, about 0.02% to 0.05% of ingested thorium is dissolved in the bloodstream, and subsequently deposited mainly in the bones where the radioactive source becomes embedded within the bone tissue for a few decades. We are unsure exactly how much the body retains thorium from inhalation, but we know that “thorium is taken up in the body much more readily if inhaled rather than ingested”. True enough, the Radiological Risk Coefficient from inhalation is 450 times greater than that of ingestion.

Therefore if significant embedment of thorium is expected, the competing theory against IAEA’s ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) model, the ECRR (European Committee on Radiation Risk) model must be considered because it takes into account the effects of thorium retention in the body.

ECRR proponents reasonably believe that the ICRP formulation is wrong to dilute the radiation exposure from internal sources to the whole body, instead of confining it to the surrounding tissue only. So, the ECRR contends that the ICRP model has underestimated the real risk of low-level radiation.

In an email exchange between Lynas’ Radiological Safety Officer Nick Tsurikov and the editor for ECRR Chris Busby, Busby suggested that the risk from internal thorium exposure should be 100 times greater than what IAEA says it is.

The fact is, there is much uncertainty over the actual risk of low-level radiation within the scientific community. It is foolish for the government to ignore the possibility that the ECRR might be right.

Construction reliability

The New York Times in “The Fear of a Toxic Rerun” (June 29, 2011) revealed cost-cutting practices as well as construction and design flaws of the plant. Some of them are “structural cracks, air pockets and leaks in many of the concrete shells for 70 containment tanks.” Then in “Rare Earth Metal Refinery Nears Approval” (Jan 31) reported that one of the key contractors to Lynas pulled out due to quality concerns.

In response to these allegations, the government obtained a safety verification from a registered engineer. No further information was given on what checks were done and their results.

So, in addition to the uncertainty over the real risk from low-level radiation, we also face the uncertainty over the impermeability of their waste ponds.

Australian approval

Lynas loves to boast that its project is approved in Australia. Given Australia’s high environmental standards, if it is approved in Australia, why would Malaysians reject it? However, the Australian proposal was approved under extremely stringent conditions (see table above).

Soo Jin Hou
Stop Lynas Coalition


Insignificant absorption of thorium

Posted on 25 March 2012 – 07:52pm
Last updated on 25 March 2012 – 07:57pm

“LET’S de-politicise the Lynas issue” (Letters, March 23) refers. The writer said 0.02% to 0.05% of ingested thorium is absorbed and gets into the blood stream. Absorption studies were done on animals for obvious reasons, and in the vast majority of these, the thorium was not mixed with clay, which binds very strongly to the clay particles i.e. adsorbed.

Thorium-232 is strongly bound (adsorbed) by soil especially clay soil. The thorium concentration in the clay particles is about 500,000% higher than in the water between the clay particles (the interstitial spaces of the clay particles). So, it cannot be leached out by water or intestinal juice.

When ingested, there is insignificant absorption of the thorium because of this strong bond between clay particles and thorium. Practically all the thorium will be excreted in the faeces with the clay.

So the actual amount of thorium that is absorbed into the blood stream when mixed with clay soil as in the case of the Lynas waste is much, much less than 0.02%.

Since Lynas waste contains 1,650 parts of thorium per million and even if we take the inflated rate of 0.02% absorption, it would mean that to get 0.33g of thorium into the blood stream, we have to swallow 1,000kg (1 tonne) of Lynas waste!

Practically all the data on the carcinogenic effects of thorium-232 was obtained retrospectively from the intravenous use of a massive dose of thorium dioxide called Thorotrast (a 25cc vial of a 25% colloidal suspension of thorium dioxide) in investigative radiological studies.

Studies appear to show that a small number out of the 4 million patients who were given this massive dose of 1 or 2 vials (containing 5.58g to 11.7g of thorium) of Thorotrast, developed cancer especially of the liver 20 to 30 years later in their old age.

So in order to get 5.58g of thorium-232 (equivalent to 1 vial of Thorotrast), we have to swallow an incredible 17,000kg or 17 tonnes of Lynas waste!

I do not think anybody in Kuantan will be able to swallow 17 tonnes of Lynas waste … and that is assuming that the thorium-232 is not strongly adsorbed to clay particles.

With respect to the inhalation of thorium-232, all studies were conducted on workers in the uranium or thorium mining or refining industry and not on populations in towns like Kuantan, and therefore do not apply to the present issue.

Datuk Dr Looi Hoong Wah

The comment board with Facebook account.
Rahim Sulong says:

So many people lost their common sense and talk like a 3 years old when it comes to Lynas, I always wonder why?

HK Tang says:

Australia is so huge and yet Lynas Corporation could not find anywhere suitable there and instead chose Gebeng, Kuantan for its rare earth refinery – and its waste products.

nkkhoo says:

Germany is also so huge, but Bosch chose Penang for its photovoltaics factory.

Xiong says:

Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) has just stated that “allegations that Robert Bosch GmbH’s multi-million ringgit solar panel plant will produce radioactive waste” (by pro-Umno blog The Mole) are not accurate.

The nation’s nuclear regulator pointed out that such plants “do not generally produce or emit radioactive material and so are not subject to the Atomic Energy Licensing Act.

nkkhoo says:

The radioactive issue in Bosch solar panel plant was raised by stupid Parti Cinta Rakyat.

This is another proof the quality of local politicians are damn low.

Chemical compounds used in solar panel factories are more toxic than most factories. I only mention the chemical toxicity of wastes like cadmium compound and others which are confirmed cancer induced agents.

You should ask LGE to relocate Bosch solar factory to your place for no radioactive waste produced.