Uranium mining by French nuclear company AREVA poses a serious threat to the environment and people of northern Niger in West Africa.

Operations of Nuclear giant AREVA put lives at risk in Niger

Uranium mines in Niger operated by the state-owned French nuclear giant AREVA continue to create a radioactive hazard for the people living nearby. A new report released today by Greenpeace reveals contamination levels in the air, water and soil above internationally accepted limits.

“Radioactivity increases poverty because it creates more victims. With each day passes we are exposed to radiation and continue to be surrounded by poisoned air, polluted water and earth – while AREVA makes hundreds of millions from our natural resources.” said Almoustapha Alhacen, President of the local Nigerian NGO Aghir in’ Man (which means “the shield of the soul” in the Touareg language, is a local environmental and human rights organization).

Last November, Greenpeace carried out soil, water and air tests in Arlit and Akokan, located a few kilometers from the mines. The samples were studied in collaboration with the France-based Research and Independent Information on Radioactivity Commission (CRIIRAD).

“The analysis we have performed show that the uranium contamination in four out of five water samples exceed World Health Organisation safety limits*. We found evidence of radon, a radioactive gas dissolved in water and also chemical elements. Even so, this water is still being distributed to the population and the workers for consumption” said Bruno Chareyron, an engineer in Nuclear Physics from CRIIRAD.

Half of AREVA's uranium comes from two mines in Niger, one of Africa's poorest countries despite being the world's third largest uranium producer for more than 40 years. Areva, has also signed a deal to start tapping a third mine in the desert nation from 2013 or 2014.

“AREVA claims that it is an environmentally friendly company are not borne out in reality, the shocking levels of contamination in Niger reveal the truth. AREVA must take immediate action to end the routine radioactive contamination of villages surrounding their Nigerien mines.” said Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner.“ AREVA must also put in place long-term health monitoring of the local population.”

Greenpeace is calling for an independent study around the mines and mining towns in Niger followed by a thorough clean up and decontamination. AREVA must take responsibility for its actions not only in Niger, but worldwide.

* Guidelines for drinking water quality, first addendum to third edition. Vol. 1: Recommendations. WHO, 2006. This version of the guidelines integrates the third edition, which was published in 2004.