In need to find something?
Custom Search
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blinky needs a second home...

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Meet Blinky.

Image taken from, hosting by PhotobucketAs far as we know, Blinky is only indigenous to the beautiful, but radioactively contaminated, waterways of Springfield, that quaint and insane home of Walski’s favorite brat in the whole wide world, Bart Simpson.

But if Lynas Corporation and Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd have their way, you may one day find Blinky, or an equally hideous cousin of this 3-eyed monster, in the waterways surrounding Gebeng, Kuantan.

Now, Walski has to apologize profusely to blogger Writestreet for keeping silent on this issue, despite having been alerted to her efforts to highlight this over a month ago. Yes, same excuse – time-related problems. Not having Hiro Nakamura’s superhuman abilities didn’t help any, either.

As much as Walski is a lover of animals (as opposed to an animal lover), Walski doesn’t think that we should be welcoming Blinky into our ecosystem anytime soon.

Let’s just say that it has to do with this thing called Rare Earth (the element, not the band), our previous nasty experience with it at Bukit Merah, and the unsatisfactory answers given at a recent Q&A session (once again via Writestreet).

Don’t know about you Kuantan folks, but if it were Walski’s neighborhood, he definitely wouldn’t want to give Blinky a home any place nearby. 
(what rare earth is, Walski’s beef, and more, in the full post)

So, what’s the fuss all about? What’s Rare Earth anyways?

Simply put, Rare Earth elements are a group of 17 elements comprising of scandium, yttrium, and 15 lanthanoids (via Wikipedia). They’re not exactly rare, by the way, as they can be found quite abundantly. But the historical name is still in use.

In the case of Lynas, the elements that they focus on are the Lanthanides (or more correctly, Lanthanoids), the 15 elements between the atomic numbers 57 (Lanthanium) and 71 (Lutetium), inclusive of the two elements.

These elements are used in modern electronics, lasers in particular, but the widest use is in the automotive industry, for the production of catalytic converters.

So yeah, Rare Earths are useful elements. With that Walski has no beef. What he does have a problem with are the processes and waste products, some of which are radioactive. Some Lanthanoid ions are known to be hazardous to human health (and probably Blinky’s, too), and therefore process safety is a big concern.

The main issue that bothers Walski , however, is the waste disposal.

Writestreet reported on a recent Q&A session with Lynas Malaysia conducted last Thursday, July 23rd in Kuantan. Here are some choice concerns raised during the Q&A, and the less-than-satisfactory answers (mostly "borrowed" from Writestreet’s post):

  1. Is the waste product radioactive? Answer: various answers were given at various points during the Q&A, but "technically, it is not radioactive" - the level of radioactivity is 300 times less than in Bukit Merah. Ummm… so yeah, it’s radioactive – particularly if you have lots of waste gathered in one place.
  2. What will happen to the waste once Lynas decides to close the plant? Answer: no answer was given – in fact, they didn’t want to talk about the waste at all. Hmmm… looking at Blinky, this doesn’t sit well with Walski at all.
  3. In the case of a problem during waste handling, an accident, contamination, etc, what will happen? Answer: We do not anticipate any problem at all.

It is generally at this point that all kinds of alarm bells were ringing in Walski’s head. “We do not anticipate any problem at all” in hazardous material processing is the kind of answer that indicates Lynas Malaysia doesn’t have a clue. And that’s not at all comforting.

Now, in case you were wondering, Walski has been involved with the process automation and safety industry for the good part of the last 18 years. Rest assured that when Walski says he’s concerned, his is a very well-informed concern.

For him, crap answers (especially #3 above) to plant safety-type questions are a sure recipe for environmental disaster. All kidding (and Blinky) aside.

Why? To answer this question, we’d have to rewind back about a decade-plus or so, to Bukit Merah, once the site of Asia Rare Earth (ARE), that was forced to close down because of environmental damage that the plant caused. To be more precise, radioactive contamination.

A blog set up to disseminate information, and to serve as a warning about just how nasty radioactive waste is, Menentang Sisa Radioaktif, gives us a chronology of events relating to ARE.

If what’s contained in that blog is not enough of a jolt for you folks, Writestreet has compiled a list of thirteen casualties of Bukit Merah, consisting of all kinds of exotic leukemia variants, and birth defects. Walski’s sure Blinky would’ve felt right at home…

For the record, Walski recognizes the importance of Rare Earth elements to our modern lives. He is, after all, a geek. But even geeks have concerns for the environment. And being that Lynas Corporation is relocating this proposed plant from Zibo, in Shandong Province, China – citing “tightening of the regulatory environment” as one of the reasons why they considered moving to Malaysia – the kind of brush-off answers given during the Q&A indicate that there are grounds for great concern.

At the very least, Lynas Malaysia was, quite simply, unprepared – enough for Walski to be worried for the people of Kuantan, being that we are talking about some pretty hazardous shit here.

Walski’s sure that his firm stand on this will disappoint Blinky. But for now, the 3-eyed bastard’s safe in Springfield, and Walski hopes that it gets to stay there for as long as it wants. Sorry, but no second home in Kuantan for ya, buddy.

All things considered, though, Walski believes Blinky will grudgingly understand…

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]