By Datuk Dr Looi Hoong Wah, Kuantan, Pahang
I JUST cannot understand what the big fuss is all about with regard to radioactivity exposure around the Lynas rare earth plant.
Thorium-232 is the only radioactive element associated with rare earth mining and it is regarded as the future green nuclear fuel.
It is present in rocks everywhere and even in its purest form, it radiates only alpha particles.
Alpha particles, which consist of two protons and two neutrons, are nothing more than helium atoms without their electrons.
These alpha particles cannot travel more than a few centimetres and cannot penetrate the human skin.
As such, you can hold a lump of pure thorium-232 in your rubber-gloved hands without any danger.
Thorium-232 does not produce dangerous gamma rays, which have high ionising energy, high frequency and short electromagnetic wavelength. These can pass though the human body and cause radiation damage.
To be frank, I would not mind keeping a few hundred kilogrammes of pure thorium-232 in my house if someone were kind enough to give me such a valuable substance.
In other words, the fear of radioactivity danger from the rare earth processing plant is unfounded and exaggerated.
What we need to worry about is the chemical toxic waste that such plants produce.
But, unfortunately, all industrial plants produce toxic waste and the only way to avoid producing these waste will be for us to remain a poor agricultural country.
P/S: Agak-agak Fuziah Toron berani tak simpan dalam rumah dia hehehe