When a question involves radiation, science and politics meet. This has been true for some time in the United States and Europe, but activism is on the rise in other parts of the world as well. Now, intense debate about the siting of a low-level radioactive waste disposal site in Malaysia may force the closure of the Asian Rare Earth Company (ARE), which operates a plant that extracts rare earths from monazite sand, a residue of tin mining. A trial now under way in the high court of Ipoh has involved radiation experts and activists from all over the world, representing both (or all) sides of the nuclear issue.
The ARE started operation in May 1982 as a joint venture between the Malaysians and the Japanese. The rare earths are shipped to Japan and eventually yield yttrium and other rareearth elements used in making televisions, computers, and steel. One of