Friday, July 1, 2011

Toxics and Rare Earth

According to a report in the New York Times (click on the title to read the article), a $230 million refinery, being built in Kuantan, Malaysia, by Australian company Lynas Corporation is facing construction and design problems according to internal memos by current and former engineers on the project. The fear is that the plant, which would refine rare earth ores into manufacturing grade metals- crucial to many technologies including smart phones, smart bombs, hybrid cars-- will leak radioactive and toxic materials into the water table. Protests are ongoing. While rare earths are not radioactive, in nature they are mixed with thorium- which is. Other companies are reportedly planning on opening similar refineries in the US, Mongolia, Vietnam and India by the end of 2013. Memos and emails from former and current engineers on the project say there is a problem. Lynas and the IAEA say that the design and planned operations procedures have met international standards. The TIPS September Teleconference Series, on September 8th, 9th and 12th will feature 3 programs sponsored by TIPS Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee that will feature discussions on Prevention of mass disasters. The TIPS Midyear Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina will focus on Disasters Caused by Negligent Acts.

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