AREVA fails to address radiation problem around Niger mines

Press release - November 26, 2009
A Greenpeace team visited AREVA’s two uranium mines in Niger from 1-9 November. During the visit Greenpeace found dangerous levels of radiation in the streets of Akokan, a mining city located close to both mines. AREVA had earlier declared the streets safe. Today Greenpeace is releasing the first results of its survey to the authorities and companies involved, and calling for an independent inspection, followed by a comprehensive clean-up to address the impacts of the French nuclear company’s activities in Niger.

“AREVA’s mining operation has created a radioactive threat to the people of Akokan; one that it has failed to address despite two years of effort.” said Dr. RianneTeule of Greenpeace International, "It is time for a full and independent inspection of this area."

In 2007 the independent French laboratory CRIIRAD identified the problem of radioactive debris from the mines being used as building materials in the streets of Akokan [1] and reported this to AREVA and local authorities.

According to AREVA, shortly afterwards Akokan was checked and 11 locations with high radiation levels were cleaned up [2]. A map made by AREVA’s mining company after the clean-up shows that radiation levels at those 11 locations were close to or at normal background levels, implying the town was safe.

The Greenpeace team performed a small survey in the streets of Akokan, on and around the 11 locations. The survey identified seven locations with significant radiation levels [3]. At three locations, the Greenpeace measurements directly contradict the data on the AREVA map. In one area the levels were as high as 63microSv/hr at 5 cm, almost 500 times higher than normal background levels.

“These radiation levels represent a danger to human health. People spending time in the streets could be exposed to a significant dose of radiation. There is a further risk that radioactive dust could be released from the contaminated spots. Inhaling radioactive dust is a serious health risk.” says Dr. Paul Johnston from Greenpeace Science Unit at the University of Exeter.“The town should be cleaned up immediately.”

This scandal demonstrates again that the nuclear industry is a threat to the environment. Greenpeace calls for the whole town of Akokan to be thoroughly inspected, followed by an exhaustive clean-up, to ensure residents are safeguarded from the risks of the uranium mines.

Other contacts: Spokesperson, Dr Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International, +31 650 640 961
Press officer, Martin Lloyd, Greenpeace International, +31 646 197 324

VVPR info: Photo desk, , +44 797 364 2103
Video desk, , +44 753 362 5409

Notes:
[1] Note CRIIRAD N°07-53, Présence de matériaux radioactifs dans le domaine public à ARLIT et AKOKAN (Niger), à proximité des mines SOMAÏR et COMINAK (AREVA), CRIIRAD, 14 May 2007.
[2] Greenpeace Briefing Nov 2009, http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/planet-2/report/2009/11/briefing-radioactivity-in-ak.pdf
[3] “Correspondance en date du 6 octobre 2008 avec les Service Départemental des Mines sur le contrôle radiologique de la zone urbaine accompagnée d’une carte des travaux effectuées”, document provided by AREVA, 4 November 2009.

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