Respected Malaysian Nuclear Physicist Defends Lynas Plant

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | November 6, 2012 5:52 PM EST

Datuk Dr Looi Hoong Wah, a respected Malaysian nuclear physicist and consultant physician, has defended the beleaguered rare earths processing plant of Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corp. in Kuantan, saying the allegations being spread by its opponents are fabricated lies that bear relations to the country's upcoming general election.

"The substance they bring in is just nothing but rare earth oil containing a tiny bit of weak radioactive thorium 232," Dr Looi, who has 40 years of interest in nuclear medicine and particle physics, was quoted by Bernama.

"That is an extremely weak sort of radioactive substance and it has a very long life of tens of billions of years."

Lynas' temporary operating license (TOL) is still in the backburner after the Malaysian High Court issued a temporary restraining order on account of the application lodged against it by Malaysian activists who want it restrained until two judicial review cases questioning the government's decision to allow the plant to operate are heard.

Mr Looi said the disinformation campaign against Lynas and its rare earths processing plant "bordered on ridiculous assertions."

"All these anti-Lynas people say . . . oh our great-great grandchildren are going to suffer for 14 billion years. This is absolutely rubbish," he said.

Citing as an example, Mr Looi said he had held thorium with his own hands without any side effects since thorium, when released and atttached with electrons to produce helium gas, is completely harmless.

"The thorium 232 or decay products produce only a tiny bit of electron, which is electricity," he said.

"It doesn't cause any problem. You find that Lynas' radiation, once you are outside of the boundaries of the plant, the radiation is zero.

The nuclear physicist and consultant physician said he believed people are being hyped up against Lynas and its plant to win votes for the coming election.

Mr Looi cautioned people opposed to the plant's presence said Malaysia stands to lose more if it fails to operate.

"They ought to wake up and realise that the Lynas plant would be of great benefit to the country."

"Once you have a rare earth plant around, (other) companies will come, like Siemens (which) is planning to come in and make use of the rare earth. They will produce thousands more jobs because of the spill-over effects," he pointed out.

"You can brainwash people for some time but you can't brainwash them forever," he said.

The Malaysian High Court is expected to release its decision on Thursday this week.

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