The fact that AELB approved a TOL for Lynas to operate, even when a storage facility was yet to be unidentified has come as a shock to the people . Four government ministries has been roped in to help Lynas find a suitable storage site in the country is not only amusing but downright deploring. The statement by the international trade and industry minister that the radio active wastes will be disposed of overseas, even though it may break international laws is really not very assuring.

The Sun declined to publish my response (below) to Dr Looi Hoong Wah’searlier letter. In the interest of reasoned exchanges, I hope this response to Dr Looi’s latest letter sees the light of day.

In this letter, Dr Looi’s cites the Argonne National Lab’s fact sheet on thorium to argue that only a miniscule portion of thorium-232 which is ingested via food or water is absorbed into the bloodstream, of which only 4 per cent gets deposited in the liver where it is retained with a biological half-life of 700 days.

Live has uncovered the distinctly dirty truth about the process used to extract neodymium: it has an appalling environmental impact that raises serious questions over the credibility of so-called green technology.

The reality is that, as Britain flaunts its environmental credentials by speckling its coastlines and unspoiled moors and mountains with thousands of wind turbines, it is contributing to a vast man-made lake of poison in northern China. This is the deadly and sinister side of the massively profitable rare-earths industry that the ‘green’ companies profiting from the demand for wind turbines would prefer you knew nothing about.

Hidden out of sight behind smoke-shrouded factory complexes in the city of Baotou, and patrolled by platoons of security guards, lies a five-mile wide ‘tailing’ lake. It has killed farmland for miles around, made thousands of people ill and put one of China’s key waterways in jeopardy.

This vast, hissing cauldron of chemicals is the dumping ground for seven million tons a year of mined rare earth after it has been doused in acid and chemicals and processed through red-hot furnaces to extract its components.


He neglects to mention that thorium-232 is much more readily absorbed into the human body via an inhalation route, and furthermore that 70 per cent of the amount entering the bloodstream gets deposited in bone where it is retained with a biological half-life of about 22 years, all that while irradiating the much more radio-sensitive blood-forming tissues there with highly mutagenic alpha-particles (20 times more damaging to cellular genetic material than beta or gamma radiation).

Could this be the reason for the cluster of childhood leukaemias observed among the children of Bukit Merah? (Recall also the inverse square law — the intensity of radiation from a radioactive particle a metre away from a human body increases a trillion-fold when that same particle sits at micron-level distances on the body’s cells and tissues.)

Dr Looi considers that inhalation exposures to thorium-containing dust is solely an occupational problem which is not relevant to the greater Kuantan-Kemaman community. Let’s recall that the ARE rare earths refinery at Bukit Merah, like LAMP, had no long-term waste management plan. Ad hoc arrangements, including the aborted Papan dump site, eventually led to a situation of indiscriminate, clandestine dumping of radioactive thorium-cake wastes at Lahat, Menglembu, Pengkalan, Jelapang, Buntong, Simpang Pulai, among other locations.

The Kuantan-Kemaman community similarly faces the prospect of unknown numbers of dump sites at unknown locations scattered in and around the cities if Lynas does not come up with an acceptable plan for long-term waste disposal.

Allow me also to bring to Dr Looi’s attention a 1993-1994 study of male miners at the Bayun Obo rare earths and iron mine in Inner Mongolia which was reported in the Journal of Radiological Protection in 2005.

In that study, highly dust-exposed miners had 5.15 times the age-adjusted lung cancer rate compared to the rate among Chinese males in the general population. The less-exposed mining staff had 2.30 times the general population rate. Both groups had similar smoking rates (78 per cent vs 67 per cent for the general adult male population).

On this basis, the authors concluded that the excess lung cancer risk among the less-exposed was largely due to above-average smoking, and the further difference between the two miner groups was due to high exposure to airborne crystalline silica particulates (mainly) and to thorium-containing dust and its radioactive daughter nuclides such as thoron gas readmore


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