Solar Rises in Malaysia During Trade Wars Over Panels, NYT, By KEITH BRADSHERDEC. 11, 2014 KULIM, Malaysia — Tucked away in this former tin-mining town, past the small farms of banana trees and oil palms, is one of the solar industry’s best-kept secrets.
The six factories here with cavernous rooms up to one-third of a mile long constitute the production backbone of First Solar. Working alongside minivan-size robots adapted from car assembly plants and other industries, 3,700 employees produce five-sixths of the American company’s solar panels. Workers in Ohio make the rest.
The list of manufacturers is long. Panasonic of Japan has a solar panel factory a mile down the road. SunEdison makes wafers 60 miles away in Chemor. Hanwha Q Cells and SunPower have giant factories even farther south, while Solexel, a Silicon Valley start-up, is preparing to build an $810 million solar panel factory in stages.
Malaysia, a Southeast Asian nation with just 30 million people, is the biggest winner in the trade wars that have embroiled the solar sector. As Chinese companies have been hit with American tariffs and European quotas, Malaysia has increasingly attracted multinationals with its relatively low labor costs, lucrative tax breaks, warm relations with the West and abundance of English-speaking engineering talent.
Malaysia is now the world’s third-largest producer of solar equipment, trailing China by a wide margin but catching up rapidly with the European Union. And Malaysia’s role in the global solar trade is only likely to increase in the coming months if the American government broadens tariffs on panels made in China next Tuesday as expected……
The solar manufacturing boom in Malaysia has been almost invisible, a rarity in an industry known for heavily promoting even the smallest factory opening or new solar panel farm as progress toward cleaner energy……..
Trade wars have helped some American companies. SolarWorld, a big manufacturer that has led trade litigation against China, recently said that it was expanding capacity by 150 megawatts and adding 200 jobs at its main solar panel factory in Hillsboro, Ore. It partly pointed to the trade actions that had slowed the flood of Chinese imports.
But production in Malaysia, already triple the United States’ output, is rising faster. The latest project underway in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, is an 800-megawatt solar module factory for Hanwha Q Cells. First Solar is putting the finishing touches on a 100-megawatt factory here to supply the Japanese market.
Malaysia is a beneficiary of the complex interaction of global trade rules, economic competitiveness and environmental policies in the solar industry. Tariffs have had the most immediate effect………. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/12/business/energy-environment/solar-rises-in-malaysia-during-trade-wars-over-panels.html
US: We’ll help build nuclear plant The Star 26 Oct KUALA LUMPUR: The United States is willing to help Malaysia should it decide to build a nuclear power plant, says American diplomat Laura E. Kennedy.
Kennedy, charge d’affaires at the Permanent Mission of the US to the International Organisations in Vienna, said her country had a long standing nuclear power industry with the right expertise………
The envoy, who is in the country to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, said Malaysians should be aware that nuclear technology could be beneficial in fields such as health and agriculture……http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/10/26/US-Well-help-build-nuclear-plant/
IAEA reports no long-term plan for Lynas waste, Malaysian Insider 17 October 2014 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday gave a passing safety grade to a controversial Malaysia rare earths plant, but raised concerns that there was no long-term plan for properly disposing of the plant’s potentially radioactive waste.
The rare earths processing plant in the state of Pahang has generated opposition from green groups who fear radioactive contamination and have accused authorities and Lynas of overriding public concern.
In a report, the IAEA said it saw little risk of contamination due to the low-level radiation involved, and that its investigators were “not able to identify any instances of non-compliance” with international standards. “Lynas needs to demonstrate that the disposal of solid waste can be carried out in a safe manner over the long-term,” the report said.
It recommended that Malaysian authorities require Lynas to come up with a plan.
“There is a lack of a plan for managing the waste from the decommissioning and dismantling of the plant at the end of its life,” it said……
However, it also appeared to underscore environmentalists’ concerns that Australian miner Lynas Corp has no long-term plan for the disposal of waste from the plant.- http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/iaea-teams-says-lynas-plant-generates-low-level-radioactive-waste-bernama#sthash.JEFk1poD.dpuf
DAP blasts BN’s nuclear power plans, calls it a threat to health, safety, The Malaysian Insider By LOOI SUE-CHERN 8 August 2014 Barisan Nasional (BN) is putting profit ahead of the interest of the people if it goes ahead with plans to build two nuclear power reactors in the country, said the DAP.
Party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng (pic) said BN would be gambling with the people’s health and safety if it goes ahead with the plans. Lim disagreed with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, who had said that Malaysia cannot continue on an energy status quo and nuclear energy was a serious option for energy resources sustainability.
“Mah is wrong because Malaysia will be able to shift to a sustainable energy paradigm without relying on nuclear power plants,” Lim said in a statement today.
The Penang chief minister said Putrajaya would be able to achieve energy sustainability by wiping out corruption, investing in renewable energy projects, diversifying its domestic economies and reducing reliance on hydrocarbon resources.
“Lest Mah forgets the risks of nuclear energy, more than 150,000 evacuees are still unable to return home after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, following the huge earthquake and tsunami.
“Japan is still dealing with contaminated groundwater around the Fukushima nuclear power plants everyday,” Lim said.
He also said it is “irresponsible” of BN to decide to proceed with the proposed two nuclear power plants, when there are serious concerns about safety and the environment.
Lim said BN could not even ensure uninterrupted water supply, which would be a key component to cool and clean nuclear power reactors.
Apart from that, Malaysia still enjoys a high energy reserve margin of over 30%.
“Both the Pakatan Rakyat Penang government and DAP have adopted a firm and uncompromising stand against nuclear reactors due to their unsustainable costs, huge environmental and humanitarian risks.”The Penang state government had written to the then Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Tan Sri Peter Chin on March 21, 2011 to object against the building of any nuclear power plant in Malaysia,” he said, adding that Penang will also ban such facilities………. http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/dap-blasts-bns-nuclear-power-plans-calls-it-a-threat-to-health-safety#sthash.UMEY14oX.dpuf
Crikey Clarifier: what’s all the fuss about rare earths? http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/07/01/crikey-clarifier-whats-all-the-fuss-about-rare-earths/ by Crikey Intern Bondi resident Natalie Lowrey was suddenly released without charge on Friday night after five days’ detention in a Malaysian prison. Lowrey, who was born in New Zealand, was arrested last week in Kuantan, Malaysia, for protesting against the processing of rare earths by Australian minerals giant Lynas Corp. We delve into some of the issues surrounding the case.
What are rare earths?
Rare earths are chemical elements found in the earth’s crust that are vital to many modern technologies, including electronics such as speakers, computers, hybrid cars and wind turbines. Rare earths have unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties that help technologies perform more efficiently. They are particularly valuable for use in smartphones, and are in high demand.
What is Lynas Corp, and what is it doing in Malaysia?
Lynas Corporation Ltd is an ASX 100 listed company based in Sydney, Australia. It is currently constructing the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP), a rare earth processing plant at Gebeng, near Kuantan, Malaysia.
Lynas’ rare earth project has sparked protests in Australia and Malaysia over fears about possible negative health, environmental and economic impacts once the plant begins its operation, as it will produce radioactive material as a waste product. Although the rare earths are extracted in Western Australia, the potentially hazardous processing will take place in Malaysia.
Is there any evidence processing rare earths is dangerous?
Mitsubishi Chemicals Asian Rare Earths, a plant in Bukit Merah, Malaysia, was shut down in the 1992 after at least eight cases of leukaemia and a sudden surge in birth defects and miscarriages in the area. The plant was finally closed after an eight-year battle and is currently undergoing the largest clean-up in the rare earth industry at a cost of US$100 million. Cleaning up requires digging up the entire area of contamination and entombing it inside a mountain.
A spokesperson from Lynas told Crikey: “The Asian Rare Earth plant used the waste from tin mining as its raw material. Lynas raw material contains naturally low levels of thorium, which are 30-40 times lower than rare earth concentrates from tin mine tailings. By all international standards, the Lynas raw material is classified as safe, non-toxic and non-hazardous.”
But Dr David KL Quek, former president of the Malaysia Medical Association, has said:
“Thorium is an acknowledged waste product from the planned Lynas refinery of rare earth ores. Due to the various refining processes thorium will be enriched and concentrated to levels which could reach quantities that are difficult to contain or be safely sequestrated.
“Based on the preliminary Environmental Impact Agency report, thorium residues would lead to a sizeable radioactivity dose of some 62 Becquerel per gram. For 106 tonnes this would be an enormous quantity of radioactive residual thorium.”
Wastes from production will include radioactive thorium and uranium and their radioactive decay products such as radium and radon. Australian authorities have explicitly refused to allow the wastes to be shipped back to Australia for safe disposal.
The Malaysian government has been more open to rare earths processing than the Australian government.
Phua Kai Lit, an associate professor of the Jeffery Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Monash University in Malaysia, told Crikey: “The Prime Minister, as well as the Chief Minister of the state of Pahang, are both strong supporters of the project. Similarly, political appointees such as the various ministers from ministries involved with the project echo the government’s line. The head of the main regulatory body, the Atomic Energy Licensing Board, also echoes the government’s line.
A spokesperson told Crikey Lynas plans to recycle the waste from the LAMP refining process into co-products such as plaster boards and cement. Two out of three of these products have been certified as non-radioactive by the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board.
The AELB is in charge of approving and monitoring radioactive industries and received an undisclosed sum by Lynas Corp in 2011. However the AELB denied the sum was a requirement.
Calls renew for Lynas shutdown after third death at plant Malaysian Insider, 14 Dec 13 Opponents of the Lynas Advance Materials Plant in Pahang have renewed calls for the closure of the controversial rare earth refinery following the death of an engineer who drowned in a pond at the facility yesterday. The Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) movement said the fatal accident, the third in two years at the plant near Kuantan, Pahang, should be viewed seriously, and warranted a full investigation.
“This is very serious. We are demanding the government shut down the Lynas Advance Materials Plant immediately and cease all activities in the plant until a full and comprehensive independent investigation is completed by the relevant authorities like the Department of Occupational Safety and Health to establish the nature and cause/s of the fatal accident,” its chairman Tan Bun Teet said today…….
The plant in Gebeng has been mired in controversy after residents claimed it emits the hazardous thorium compound that can cause cancer among humans. It is known that the processing of rare earth materials would produce a thorium by-product.
The Australian-owned plant’s ability to obtain a temporary licence, despite not revealing a waste disposal facility, has enraged activists who have opposed the company’s practices and the government for allowing such a plant within a 30km radius of 700,000 residents.
Groups have called for the government and Lynas shareholders to remove the company’s operations from Malaysia amid the company’s poor performance in the Australian bourse due to weakened rare earth prices.
SMSL said although previously some of the firm’s shareholders had wanted to conduct best practices in its operations abroad, it has been business as usual for Lynas.
However, yesterday’s death has given the group more cause to question the plant’s operational procedures and safety hazards……http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/calls-renew-for-lynas-shutdown-after-third-death-at-plant
“Section 11 of the law allows the minister to direct regulators toward certain policies and so there’s massive conflict of interest,” said Dr Peter Karamoskos, an Australian nuclear radiologist.
Problems at Lynas factory can cause radioactive leaks, say experts The Malaysian Insider, 24 Nov 13, Prevailing problems in waste management, storage, disposal facility and waste cleaning at the Lynas factory can lead to radioactive leakages if the Australian firm fails to address the issues, said experts t at a seminar in Kuala Lumpur today.
The mining company’s refinery near Kuantan, Pahang, has several problems, which experts said in the event of an accident or carelessness, could harm to residents near the factory. Continue reading
Lynas drops case against Malaysia greens AAP JUNE 18, 2013 AUSTRALIAN rare earths miner Lynas Corporation has dropped defamation action against a Malaysian green group. In April last year, Lynas initiated legal proceedings against Save Malaysia Stop Lynas.
Two months later, independent media website Free Malaysia Today apologised for running stories sympathetic to the activists, who opposed plans for a processing plant. Lynas Corporation chief executive Eric Noyrez on Tuesday said solicitors had been instructed to discontinue legal action against the activist group.
“There is no value in continuing disputes with members of our local community,” he said in a statement.
“Therefore, Lynas intends to instruct its solicitors to discontinue its defamation claim against the Save Malaysia Stop Lynas group.”…. Lynas shares fell 1.25 cents, or 2.84 per cent, to 42.75 cents following the statement’s release.http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/breaking-news/lynas-drops-case-against-malaysia-greens/story-fni0xqe4-1226665659143
Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream Aliran, 19 December 2012 by Wendy Bacon ” ……While Lynas says it is confident in the current by-product plans, they are yet to be tested. Dr Peter Karamoskas, who has been a nuclear radiologist for 13 years and represents the Australian public on the Radiation Safety Committee of Australia’s nuclear safety agency, shares none of that confidence.
Speaking on his own behalf, Karamoskas said that to be safe more than a million tons of WLP residue with a radioactive reading of 6Bq have to be mixed with five times the amount of aggregate to reduce its reading to 1Bq. While he said that a similar process had been used in the Netherlands, the waste was far less radioactive, sitting near 1Bq, which is the threshold for safety.
Karamoskas said it has never been used with material with the Lamp WLP reading of 6Bq. He says that it is extremely unlikely to be a long term solution from a safety or economic point of view: “If this was all ready to go they would be trumpeting it in the public arena … already it looks slippery. If this was possible wouldn’t most countries around the world be doing it?” He thinks it is extremely unlikely that the road mix could be imported, other than to a country with “lax standards” because it would breach international best practice standards. Continue reading
The IAEA also recommended that Lynas proceed no further until it had filed comprehensive plans for the permanent disposal of waste, decommissioning of the plant and remediation of the site at the end of its life.
Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream Aliran, 19 December 2012 Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas’ Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon’s questions brushed off the criticism. This is the second of two articles about Lynas by Wendy Bacon.Read the first here.http://aliran.com/11005.html
Australian rare earth company Lynas has always known it had a waste problem.
It plans to process rare earth concentrate, imported from its mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia, at its Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (Lamp) in Malaysia. It will not only produce rare earths for export but also a huge amount of waste, including more than a million cubic metres of low level radioactive material. Continue reading
Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream Aliran, 19 December 2012 Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas’ Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon’s questions brushed off the criticism. This is the second of two articles about Lynas by Wendy Bacon “………Shutting down the critics
New Matilda asked to interview Lynas Executive Chairperson Nick Curtis but he was not available. Instead we interviewed a Lynas spokesperson who insists that the waste products of the Lamp project are “not hazardous in any way”. He refers to the safety record of Lynas which in “all of its constructions … has been achieved with zero lost time injury”.
When New Matilda suggested that problems are more likely to arise in the long term, even 20 or 30 years away, he replied: “I would be lying if I categorically tell you there is no risk in 20 or 30 years time from anything. What I can tell you is that the unanimous conclusion of all of the scientific experts from all of the different organisations that have investigated this material and everything else is that there will be no discernible risk for the public or anyone else from this facility.”
But this is far from true.
For example, in April this year, the National Toxic Network (NTN), a community-based network “working to ensure a toxic-free future for all”, published a preliminary assessment of the waste steam of Lynas’s Lamp project. It was prepared by Lee Bell, a qualified environmental scientist with 20 years experience in analysis of industrial process plants, groundwater monitoring and contaminated sites. He co-chaired the Core Consultative Committee on Waste under the former Labor government in Western Australia, which reformed the state’s hazardous waste sector. Readers of his 29 page NTN report (pdf), which was reviewed by another scientist, are likely to be concerned about the company’s environmental plans.
I asked Lynas’ spokesperson about the NTN report: “Whatever you think of it, it [the report] is a solid document. It appears to be academically referenced and it also appears to have had some form of review. If you read it, on a number of scores, you would be concerned?”…..
The Lynas spokesman rejected an NTN claim that Lamp’s location on a reclaimed swamp with a high rainfall is relevant to disposal of low level radioactive waste. Asked if he was aware it was a “marshy site”, he said, “I have no idea”. He explained that although there is a pristine fishing village and beach at Kuantan three and a half kilometres away on the coast, “if there is a risk there, it is much wider than just Lynas because the Lamp is in a petrochemical zone”. In fact, the site is on a reclaimed peat swamp……..http://aliran.com/11018.html
” there will be no discernible risk for the public or anyone else from this facility.”
But this is far from true.
Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream Aliran, 19 December 2012 Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas’ Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon’s questions brushed off the criticism. “…….
New Matilda asked to interview Lynas Executive Chairperson Nick Curtis but he was not available. Instead we interviewed a Lynas spokesperson who insists that the waste products of the Lamp project are “not hazardous in any way”. Continue reading
Lynas’ waste plans a toxic pipe dream Aliran, 19 December 2012 Scientists and community leaders are concerned about radioactive waste from Lynas’ Malaysian plant but the company representative who took Wendy Bacon’s questions brushed off the criticism. “……Discrediting sources is a familiar public relations tactic used by companies to protect themselves against journalists relying on their critics as sources. So NM asked if the company had prepared a response to the NTN report. The spokesperson said it had but it was “unfortunately contained material before a [Malaysian] court and I can’t share that with you”.
The NTN report deals with Lamp waste steams which include non radioactive fluoride, dust particulates, gas, acidic waste water as well as more than 22000 tonnes of low level Water Leach Purification (WLP) radioactive waste which a year. The most critical issue is the control and disposal of the WLP wastes — which for radioactive material may mean for many hundreds of years.
On the basis of specific criticisms, NTN has two main recommendations. First, that the temporary licence issued by the AELB should be revoked until the issue of long term waste disposal is resolved and second, that the plant should not be allowed to operate until the release of millions of litres of effluent into the Balok River that runs past the site has been “further modelled and assessed”.
“The lack of data on these issues (the impact on the river) means the Lynas EIA is well below international standards and insufficient for granting of operational licences,” theNTN says; the Lamp temporary licence would never have been granted in Australia…….http://aliran.com/11018.html
Lynas will be in court in Malaysia on 19 December. The Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL) campaignerswill be appealing against the Kuantan High Court decision to lift its stay on the company being able to exercise its rights to proceed under the temporary licence.
The toxic waste that’s not in Australia’s backyard http://aliran.com/11005.html 18 Dec 12, Australian-owned company Lynas is quietly shipping rare earth to a processing plant in Malaysia – without a firm plan in place to dispose of dangerous radioactive waste. Wendy Bacon reports.
If a manufacturing plant involving radioactive materials moved into your community, one of the first things you would ask is, “what’s going to happen to the waste?”
This is exactly how residents of Kuantan on Malaysia’s east coast reacted when the Australian company Lynas announced plans to build Lamp, the world’s biggest rare earth processing plant in their area.
Several years later, they have no clear answer. Indeed last week, while the plant that will use concentrate imported from Lynas’s rare earth mine at Mount Weld in Western Australia was finally ramping up for production, the Malaysian government and the company were in direct conflict about what would happen to the waste. Continue reading
Ten months have passed, and a safe permanent depository has yet to be identified and agreed upon by all parties. Instead Lynas is still talking of rendering the waste “safe”. Continue reading
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