Thursday, 8 September 2016

Uranium discovered in water supply for Moonbi and Kootingal in northern NSW

Elevated levels of uranium have been discovered in groundwater supplies for two small towns in northern New South Wales.

The amount of uranium discovered in the water that goes to Moonbi and Kootingal, both located about 20 kilometres north-east of Tamworth, in July during routine bore water testing, were higher than those outlined in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

The elevated levels were confirmed in August.

Now both towns are being supplied with water from Tamworth.

But independent water expert, Professor Peter Coombes from Swinburne University, has called for calm.

"From a health perspective, a one off, small exceedance of most elements is not a drinking water guideline exceedance, you need continuous exceedance of the guidelines for uranium or any other element," Professor Coombes said.

"We hear these alarming stories for alternative water sources every now and again, but we have to realise water contains a range of elements at quite low levels."

The tests found uranium levels of 0.032 milligrams.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines list the safe level for human health at 0.017 milligrams, and the World Health Organisation lists the safe level at 0.03 milligrams.

Professor Coombes said there was no point "rushing to alarm until we are sure" and multiple tests were needed to gauge consistency of the levels.

"We've got a number of cases throughout Australia and internationally where the water companies have not told communities of [elevated contamination] levels for a long time," Professor Coombes said.

"Background levels of these elements are natural and are expected so there is no reason for alarm or concern because they are just normal."
Council working to determine impact

Tamworth Regional Council's director of water, Bruce Logan, said he did not know if there had been an impact on residents.

"We're speaking to the Department of Health to try to get their advice on what the implications for the levels have been," Mr Logan said.

"I don't want to speculate at this stage, we'll see what the Department of Health has to say and then we'll let the community know."

It is believed the uranium is from a naturally occurring source.

"Uranium occurs in geology and we understand what's happened is one of the supplies, water has infiltrated through some rocks that contain uranium and that's got into the ground water supply."

"It's not unusual, uranium is naturally occurring but the levels that we're seeing are elevated at the moment."

Mr Logan said under the guidelines testing for uranium was required every six months, and as far as he knew, that testing regime had been adhered to.

He has defended the amount of time it took the council to inform the community about the elevated uranium levels, saying that they wanted to wait until they had more information.

"We felt that trying to get some answers would be a better idea to what the community might ask, rather than going and telling them something and not having the answers to the questions that might ask," Mr Logan said.

"The Department of Health will tell us what they want.

"We've given them information, they may say: 'we need more information', that might include going back and testing some of the bores, the water that's in the bores now, I don't know what they will say.

"But essentially, because we're no longer supplying Moonbi [and] Kootingal there is no risk to anyone out there now."

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

In response to our press statement on the renewal of the Full Operating Stage Licence for another three years, Lynas now claims there is no need for a Permanent Disposal Facility ( PDF) in view of their field trials and the possibility of commercialisation of their ‘solid residues from Lamp’.

This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts though the term ‘solids from Lamp’ is technically correct.

1. The Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) produces three kinds of solid ‘residues’ (Lynas preferred the term residues to that of wastes because they claim that these ‘residues’ can be recycled), the first of which is called FGD (Flue Gas Desulphurisation). This together with the NUF (Neutralization Underflow) ‘residues’ are not classified as scheduled wastes as they are not radioactively potent.

The third category of waste is called WLP (Water leached Purification) ‘residues’ which are radioactive as it has a radioactivity of 6.4 Bq/gm.

It is the last category of ‘residues’ that the IAEA recommended to have them stored in a Permanent Disposal Facility.

2. The broad statement that ‘field trials and commercialidation of their ‘solid residues from Lamp’ does not differentiate between the radioactive one from that of the non scheduled wastes. Even if the field trials and commercialization is viable for the radioactive WLP ‘residues’, the need for a PDF would still be required as the decommissioning of the plant will require it to be identified and built.

3. It is both technically and financially not viable to recycle the radioactive WLP ‘residues’ as has been pointed out by us in our memorandums to both the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) and the Lynas Operation Monitoring Committee (LOMC) prior to Lynas’ first Temporary Operating Licence (TOL) renewal in 2014.

The simple reason being to turn the WLP ‘residues’ into commercial byproducts with less than 1 Bq/gm (so as to be classified as ‘non radioactive’), the costs are too prohibitive. Many other industries had abandoned the idea of recycling their industrial wastes even though theirs are non-scheduled wastes.

4. Lynas is not in any financial position to start recycling any of their ‘solid residues’ now or in the near ‘future’ as can been seen from their yearly financial report. The FY 2016 report is currently overdue.

5. Lynas claimed that currently it has produced 93,300 tonnes of WLP ‘residues’ on dry weight basis. To use this quantity of WLP ‘residues’ before they can be ‘recycled’ into ‘non-radioactive products, it would require a six-fold volume of whatever substance that could be used to dilute it before they can become the feedstock for the industrial product.

‘Preliminary costs practically make recycling impossible’

6. The preliminary costs of drying the WLP pastes before dilution practically make the recycling impossible. All claims on the reuse and recycling of WLP ‘residues’ were put up merely for the sole purpose of acquiring renewals for their Temporary Operating Licence.

7. The need to identify and build a PDF is recommended by IAEA in their 2011 report. Even in their second report (2015) it did not rescind the call to dispense with the PDF. It merely expressed its opinion that the ‘radioactivity’ of the WLP residues was ‘intrinsically low’. (That was after it took them a full month’s delay to ‘describe’ the radioactivity of WLP as ‘intrinsically low’).

8. They have also disclosed that they have submitted a siting plan and an engineering plan for the PDF ‘in accordance to the regulatory requirements’.

This statement underscored the remark made by the former director-general of AELB in 2014 that Lynas had only submitted a ‘conceptual plan of the PDF’ and he further commented that it was not acceptable.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Press statement by Save Malaysia Stop Lynas group on the renewal of LAMP’s FOSL(TOL) on the 2nd September 2016

We note with deep regret and disappointment on AELB’s decision to renew LAMP’s Full Operating Stage License for another 3 years despite our call to its Board to examine the non fulfilment of terms and written undertakings by Lynas with commitments to recycle the radioactive WLP waste into industrial by-products and ship them overseas.

In Lynas Corporation’s announcement made to Australian Stocks Exchange today , it claimed that LAMP’s operations for the past 4 years at Gebeng, Kuantan did not cause notable increases in the background radiation level within 1,5 ,10 and 20 km radius of the plant. It also said the real time readings on the radiation level in the surrounding areas were also made available to AELB and the public online.

This is regrettably assumed by the parties concerned that the communities here are merely concerned with the issue of radiation.
If AELB Board has agreed to renew LAMP’s operating license for another 3 years based on this point of submission, we wish to remind all members of the Board that all the commitments and written undertakings by Lynas in regards to the management of the radioactive WLP wastes and identifying a location for the Permanent Deposit Facility (PDF) have yet to be fulfilled!

Since the first issuance of the Temporary Operating license in 2012, AELB has never made any announcements nor responded to public requests on the data of wastes they promised to collect in order to check if these data tally with that submitted by Lynas in their TOL application documents. This is important because Lynas did not build any pilot plant prior to setting up LAMP and all data on wastes were based on hypothetical calculations.

Neither has the other regulating authority like DOE.

This is in stark contrast to their statement that the ‘renewal followed a rigorous review undertaken by the AELB and other independent regulatory bodies in Malaysia.’

We wish to state here that our regulatory bodies concerned have yet to state openly, publish or respond to public’s criticisms on the matters mentioned above. This demonstrated clearly that they have ‘hidden’ themselves behind the stone wall of silence and are not ready to make themselves accountable for decisions they had made!

In our Memo to the Board on the 25th August, we reminded all members of the AELB Board that should it accede to the agreement to renew LAMP’s FOSL (TOL), they should be mindful of the ‘legacy’ they will be remembered by by the future generations of Malaysians for allowing profits to take precedent over people’s well beings.

With the approval of the Board to renew LAMP’s FOSL till September 2019, it testified to the fact that the Board has scant regards for the toxic legacy that their decision will help leave behind for our future generations!

Dated 2nd September 2016