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Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) embroiled in dodgy deals, conflicts of interest

Radio-active legacy of Zuptoid nuclear interference – Yelland, BIZ News, By Chris Yelland, 3 Dec 18, Independent reports are being received by EE Publishers that energy minister Jeff Radebe has requested the Necsa board to provide reasons why it should not be removed, and that issues relating the Necsa chairman are central to this matter.

It appears that the issues raised by the minister with the board concern matters of governance, engagements with Russian nuclear interests and possible unauthorised research reactor deals with Russia’s Rusatom, overseas trips by the Necsa chairman, unauthorised media releases, articles and/or communications, and apparent conflicts of interest.

Formal questions have been put to Minister Radebe, to Necsa chairman Dr Kelvin Kemm and to Necsa CEO Phumzile Tshelane, including a request for confirmation as to whether the reports being received are correct or not……

Necsa is the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa, a state-owned enterprise undertaking R&D and commercial activities in the field of nuclear energy and radiation sciences, and the production of medical nuclear radioisotopes and associated services. Necsa is also responsible for processing source material, including uranium enrichment, and co-operating with other institutions, locally and abroad, on nuclear and related matters.

Apart from its main activities at Pelindaba, near Pretoria in South Africa, which include operation and utilisation of the SAFARI-1 research reactor, Necsa also manages and operates the Vaalputs National Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in the Northern Cape on behalf of the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI).

Over the last few years, Necsa has been embroiled in a number of debilitating operational, financial and governance challenges.

As a result of safety procedure lapses, Necsa’s NTP Radioisotopes plant, which produced a significant share of the world’s commercial medical nuclear radioisotope, Molybdenum-99, was shut down by South Africa’s National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) in November 2017, which lasted almost a full year. ………

It was announced in mid-November that the NTP Radioisotopes plant was back in operation after conditional approval to restart was given by South Africa’s National Nuclear Regulator (NNR).

NTP Radioisotopes normally has a revenue of about R1.3bn a year, providing a contribution of more than 50% to the revenue of the Necsa group. The closure of the NTP production plant for a year has therefore obviously had a devastating financial impact.

There are also wider concerns regarding the financial health of Necsa. The Auditor General (AG) has raised ongoing concerns about inadequate financial provisions by Necsa for decommissioning and dismantling (D & D) costs at the end-of-life of Necsa’s SAFARI-1 research reactor.

As a result, Necsa’s annual financial statements for the year ending 31 March 2018, which were due to be published by end September 2018, have still not been tabled.

Note: This article will be updated as further information comes to hand, and/or a response from energy minister Jeff Radebe is received. https://www.biznews.com/thought-leaders/2018/12/03/necsa-board-chairman-ceo-ropes-yelland

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December 4, 2018 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | 1 Comment

South Africa’s Portfolio Committee on Energy (PCE) praises Nuclear power, glosses over cost, waste, problems

IAfrica 29th Nov 2018 , Yesterday, the Portfolio Committee on Energy (PCE) delivered its report on
the Department of Energy’s (DoE) Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), to Parliament.

According to the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), Parliament has once again failed to act in the people’s best interest, stating that it found “no persuasive arguments against nuclear”. In the report – which was based on the public hearings on the IRP, held in October – the PCE was in no doubt that “nuclear technology is the cleanest, safest and cheapest technology.”

However, SAFCEI’s Energy Justice Coordinator, Vainola Makan says that during the public hearings, various issues with nuclear, were mentioned. Says Makan, “Over and above the high costs of building a nuclear power plant – which are often marred by delays and related cost overruns – there are further costs associated with maintaining and securing the plant, as well as dealing with waste.”

Makan, who recently held SAFCEI’s People’s Power Learning Fest says, “We are learning that none of the current nuclear waste disposal solutions are real solutions, because the radioactive waste will always be there, and it will always be a risk to all things living in the areas where they are buried. At Koeberg, for example, the concentration of high-level radioactive wastecontinues to increase, and there is still no clear plan for dealing with it.”
https://www.iafrica.com/public-outcry-at-disappointing-energy-planning-report-on-nuclear-to-parliament/

December 3, 2018 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Doubts on future of South Africa’s nuclear research reactors, with glut of medical isotopes, and with particle accelerator production

SA nuclear radio-isotope production facility back in business, but… Money Web, 22 Nov 18

Earlier shutdown resulted in shortages to SA’s government hospitals, global market.

The facility is the main supplier of medical nuclear radio-isotopes such as Molybdenum-99 in Africa, and one of only four such facilities globally. As a result of safety procedure lapses, the plant was shut down in November 2017, which lasted almost a full year. Several attempts had been made in the interim to restart the plant, but without success.

The process of rectifying shortcomings and bringing the operating and safety procedures in line with the requirements of the NNR has been marred by what appears to be conflict between NTP and its parent company, the Necsa……..

The initial shutdown occurred in November 2017 as a result of procedural errors. It appears that calibration of hydrogen sensors, an important component in the safety chain, had not been carried out correctly, and that records were not being kept properly. This was considered to be a critical safety issue, and the plant was shut down by the NNR.

An investigation was held which resulted in the suspension of a number of NTP staff. Following a number of further senior executive and staff replacements, suspensions and reinstatements, Necsa placed its own employees in charge of the plant, who then attempted to rectify the problems and restart the production facility.
………Several incidents occurred which caused restarts to be halted or abandoned. One example that has been cited is the institution of various changes to parameters which were unrelated to the cause of problems. The reasons for Necsa’s actions in this regard are unclear……

following an announcement during the recent Brics Summit in Sandton of a cooperation agreement in the field of nuclear medicine between NTP and Rusatom, the nuclear medical subsidiary of Russian state-owned nuclear company Rosatom, there are some questions as to whether a second or replacement nuclear research reactor will be built.
NTP said that the current global production over-capacity of medical radio-isotopes does not justify a second nuclear research reactor, since the Safari-1 reactor at Pelindaba still has between 15 and 20 years of life, and this could be extended still further. The Safari-1 nuclear reactor produces medical nuclear radio-isotopes by bombarding target plates of low-enriched uranium with neutrons.

Furthermore, medical nuclear radio-isotopes can also be produced by particle accelerators such as cyclotrons, which could make the consDtruction of second or replacement nuclear research reactor unnecessary, the company said.

There are also concerns regarding the financial health of Necsa. The Auditor-General has raised ongoing concerns about inadequate financial provisions by Necsa for decommissioning and dismantling costs for the Safari-1 reactor end-of-life.

As a result, Necsa’s annual financial statements for the year ending March 31, which were due to be published by end September 2018, have still not been tabled. https://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/south-africa/sa-nuclear-radio-isotope-production-facility-back-in-business-but/

November 24, 2018 Posted by | health, South Africa | 3 Comments

South Africa’s Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s evidence at the State Capture Commission

I WARNED ZUMA OF NUCLEAR PROCUREMENT IMPLICATIONS, SAYS GORDHAN https://ewn.co.za/2018/11/19/i-warned-zuma-of-nuclear-procurement-implications-says-gordhan

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says he advised former President Jacob Zuma that nuclear procurement would be a complex issue. Clement Manyathela 20 Nov 18 JOHANNESBURG – Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has told the state capture commission that former President Jacob Zuma was determined to go ahead with the nuclear build programme despite the reality that the country could not afford it. Gordhan appeared before the inquiry on Monday in Parktown.

His interactions with the Gupta family are among other issues he is expected to deal with.

The minister says he advised Zuma that nuclear procurement would be a complex issue.

“I indicated to the former president that it would be lawful to follow procurement processes for such an expensive process to avoid being marred in scandals such as the arms deal.”

He says he wanted Zuma to be aware of the cost implications.

“I wanted to impress upon the former president that that undertaking, the nuclear procurement, required careful consideration of its costs, choice of supplier and due process.”

Last month, former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene told the commission Zuma was so determined to proceed with the nuclear build programme that he showed disregard and no appreciation for the financial ramifications for the country.

Gordhan will continue his testimony on Tuesday.

November 19, 2018 Posted by | legal, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa: leaked report shows Zuma government’s secret plans for nuclear power

GORDHAN’S LEAKED REPORT DETAILS BEHIND-THE-SCENES PLAN TO PROCURE NUCLEAR ENERGY https://ewn.co.za/2018/11/08/gordhan-s-leaked-report-details-behind-the-scenes-plot-to-procure-nuclear-energy– Lindsay  Dentlinger  9 Nov 18  Former President Jacob Zuma was insistent the country needed to enter into a nuclear deal.   CAPE TOWN – Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has detailed the behind-the-scenes machinations for government to procure more nuclear energy.

It’s contained in a statement that Gordhan is expected to deliver to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture next week.

It was leaked to the media overnight.

In it, Gordhan says former President Jacob Zuma was insistent the country needed to enter into a nuclear deal.

As the Finance Minister at the time, Gordhan says he warned Zuma that the process had to be above board to avoid another arms-deal scandal.

Gordhan says it was at a meeting at the presidential residence with Zuma and one of his advisors Senti Thobejane in 2013, that the former president made it clear he wanted South Africa to procure nuclear power.

Gordhan says he was not told ahead of the meeting what would be discussed, but he impressed on Zuma that costs, choice of supplier, due process and likely challenges should all be considered.

He says Treasury raised concerns with a draft agreement with Russia because of the firm fiscal commitments it aimed to enforce.

During his tenure as Finance Minister, Gordhan says Treasury officials insisted that proper evaluations of the true cost of nuclear power, and financial risks to the country be carried out.

He says once he was moved to the portfolio of Cooperative Governance, he was no longer privy to discussions around the nuclear deal.

Gordhan says he was also not present at the Cabinet meeting in December 2015 when the deal was approved.

But he points out that it was on the same day that Zuma announced Gordhan’s successor as Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, would be replaced by Des van Rooyen. A move that sent markets and the local currency into a tailspin and culminated in Gordhan’s reappointment to the post just three days later.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

November 10, 2018 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Nuclear corruption: former South African government planned to conceal costs on nuclear plan

State was willing to lie to SA over costs of Zuma’s nuclear plan, City Press News 24 2018-10-08 The state was prepared to lie to South Africans over the estimated costs of former president Jacob Zuma’s nuclear plan.

Cabinet also decided to go ahead with the nuclear power deal on the grounds of hopelessly incorrect and over optimistic “facts” that the energy department presented to Cabinet – such as an assumption that the exchange rate would stay at R10 a dollar.

A top secret Cabinet notice and accompanying memorandum – which have now been declassified and were handed to the state capture commission last week, revealed for the first time how close South Africa was on the edge of an economic crisis, and how desperate Zuma and his cronies were to push through the nuclear power deal.

Last week, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene told the commission investigating the extent of state capture how Zuma chastised him because he wasn’t making quick enough progress over the nuclear deal.

During a state visit to Russia in July 2015, then minister of energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson wanted Nene to sign a one-page agreement.

It was a letter addressed to the Russian authorities, Nene said, adding that he couldn’t remember the precise details of the letter but he remembered that it effectively gave a guarantee to the Russian authorities over the nuclear programme, if they agreed to finance it.

Nene refused to sign it because it would have been catastrophic for the country, he said.

Zuma wasn’t impressed, because he wanted to be able to present something to President Vladimir Putin when they met.

A few months later, Joemat-Pettersson’s department was still forging ahead with the project, despite warnings from Treasury.

On December 9 2015, the day Cabinet approved the nuclear deal, Nene recalled been summoned into a meeting with then president Zuma. It lasted less than five minutes and he was informed that he was being removed from his role as finance minister.

He was replaced by Des van Rooyen, which set off a spiral of uncertainty for the markets.

The secret Cabinet notice showed that the government wanted to downplay the cost implications of the deal. Prices should not be communicated prior to the procurement process being completed, it said, and if any communication was to be done around the costs of the programme, it was decided to talk about the low end of the range……..

The numbers show that nuclear would have ruined South Africa

A nuclear engineer from a large Western nuclear power company, who also tendered for the project, told Rapport that the numbers were completely unrealistic.

The number of $2500 a kilowatt was from nuclear power stations being built in Asia – mainly China and Korea. It would be unrealistic to think that it would be possible to build a nuclear power station in South Africa at such a low price, he said.

“In South Africa, if everything goes according to plan, you could bank on it costing about $5000 per kilowatt,” he said.

Both the engineer and Serfontein said that, under the best circumstances, the project would cost more than R1 trillion.

If Cabinet had gone ahead with this binding agreement, it would have ruined South Africa financially, they both said………

At that time it was widely known that the Russian state-owned nuclear power company, Rosatom, would be the preferred bidder because Joemat-Pettersson had signed a framework agreement with Rosatom more than a year before, on September 22 2014, that would make the Russians the sole supplier for South Africa’s nuclear power programme.

Last year, the High Court set aside this agreement and framework agreements with other countries. https://city-press.news24.com/News/state-was-willing-to-lie-to-sa-over-costs-of-zumas-nuclear-plan-20181008

October 9, 2018 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene testified to the nuclear corruption in former South African regime

Nene refused to sign off on nuclear energy – and it cost him his job https://businesstech.co.za/news/energy/275039/nene-refused-to-sign-off-on-nuclear-energy-and-it-cost-him-his-job/ South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said he met repeatedly with members of the Gupta family, who have been implicated in a corruption scandal related to former President Jacob Zuma and separately was twice pressured to sign a multi-billion Russian nuclear-power deal by former Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

Nene made his comments in a statement accompanying his testimony at a judicial inquiry into allegations of corruption and so-called state capture which involve the Guptas, who are friends with the former president.

Nene denied wrongdoing in his meetings with the family and said he refused to sign the agreement for Russia to provide nuclear energy, a plan that had been publicly backed by Zuma.

President Cyril Ramaphosa came to power in February and has changed the top management at the likes of the revenue authority and the state power utility as part of his pledge to fight corruption. He reappointed Nene as finance minister, a move that helped bolster investor confidence after years of economic mismanagement and regular cabinet changes under Zuma.

Nene first served as finance minister until December 2015, when Zuma fired him, causing a plunge in the rand and bonds. Mcebisi Jonas, who was Nene’s deputy, told the commission the Guptas offered him a bribe to take over the finance minister post, which he declined.

Nene rejected pressure to approve the construction of as many as eight nuclear reactors, which would have the capacity to generate 9,600 megawatts of energy. The costs of the project, championed by Zuma, would have been “astronomical,” he said in his statement.

In July 2015, Nene twice refused to sign a letter from Joemat-Pettersson providing a guarantee to the Russian government on the nuclear program.

“As a result of my refusal to sign the letter, I was seen as the person standing in the way of the nuclear deal,” he said. “I was accused of insubordination, not only by the president but by some of my colleagues.”

October 5, 2018 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Kenya postpones its nuclear power plans

Kenya now pushes nuclear power plant plan to 2036, https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/economy/Kenya-now-pushes-nuclear-power-plant-plan-to-2036/3946234-4777866-b05oauz/index.html, By PATRICK ALUSHULASEPTEMBER 25, 2018  Kenya was already hunting for a partner to produce nuclear power by 202.
Kenya has postponed its plan to build Sh968 billion nuclear power plant by nine years to 2036 in favour renewable energy projects and coal plant.

Updated power development plan prepared by the Ministry of Energy and covering the period 2017 to 2037, now show that the earliest the country can build the nuclear plant is 2036 and not 2027 as initially planned.

In the revised plan, the first unit is expected to be completed in 2036, followed by another in 2037, making it the last project in the ministry’s 20-year plan for power generation expansion.

“All energy sources were considered in the system expansion planning. However, it is noteworthy that nuclear was not brought on board in both optimised and fixed MTP cases,” reads the updated plan shared by the Ministry.

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In addition to the delay, the plan size has been scaled down. Initially, Kenya was to construct two nuclear power plants, each with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts (MW) at a total cost of $4.05 billion (Sh405 billion) per plant.

However, the new plan is to have each plant with a capacity of 600MW at a cost of $4.84 billion (Sh484) billion.

The Ministry did not explain why the cost had gone up despite cutting the capacity of each unit by 40 per cent.

Kenya was already hunting for a partner to produce nuclear power by 2022 to help match-up rising demand and diversify from hydropower and geothermal.

It joins South Africa South Africa, which in August cancelled plans to add 9,600 MW of nuclear power by 2030 and will instead aim to add more capacity in natural gas, wind and other energy sources.

September 26, 2018 Posted by | Kenya, politics | Leave a comment

South Africa not planning for nuclear power, as renewable energy costs go down

‘NUCLEAR POWER NOT IN GOVT’S PLAN AS SA ENERGY DEMANDS DECREASE’ https://ewn.co.za/2018/09/04/jeff-radebe-no-nuclear-power-programme-is-envisaged-by-govt Briefing Parliament’s energy committee on Tuesday, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe also pointed out that the cost of renewable energy technology has also come down.

Instead, he says the country’s energy demands have decreased.

Briefing Parliament’s energy committee on Tuesday, Radebe also pointed out that the cost of renewable energy technology has also come down.

According to the draft IRP, nuclear energy will only account for about 4% of the country’s energy mix by 2030.

This means no nuclear build programme is being envisaged.

Radebe says there are some misunderstandings about the decision taken on nuclear energy.

“It is not in the plan together with a number of other technologies for the period ending 2030 due to lower demand and lower cost of other technologies.”

MPs say they are relieved a new nuclear project has been scrapped for now, because it is not only unaffordable but would open the door to corruption.

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)

September 8, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) lobby for African nations to ratify comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty

African countries can help ban nuclear weapons – ICRC https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/african-countries-can-help-ban-nuclear-weapons-20180905, 2018-09-05 

September 6, 2018 Posted by | AFRICA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

After PREMIUM TIMES report, contractors complete abandoned projects at Nigeria’s Nuclear Technology Centre

Premium Times Nigeria, August 12, 2018, Kemi Busari  Seven months after PREMIUM TIMES published an investigation on the sorry state of Nigeria’s Nuclear Technology Centre, some abandoned projects within the centre have been completed.

Following the report of security loopholes in the investigation, the management of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) which oversees the centre also contracted a private firm to provide security for the centre.

In the two-part series published by PREMIUM TIMES in January, three projects were designated as abandoned as work had stopped on them.

Read first and second part of the investigation.

Identified as uncompleted were the centre’s recreational and educational facility, instrumentation laboratory and waste management plant.

In the report, some workers of the centre complained of idleness due to the inadequate facilities

The report also beamed a search light on the porous security at the centre which is partly due to the management’s insensitivity to the centre’s peculiar needs and a failed surveillance project………..

Waste Management
Meanwhile, works have continued on the radioactive waste management facility at the centre.

Awarded at over N400 million in 2009, a building that was supposed to serve as the radioactive waste management facility was overgrown with weed when this reporter first visited September 2017.

Waste management plants and equipment comprise various devices and machines used for treating, converting, disposing and processing wastes from various sources.

The construction of low/medium radioactive waste management facility was awarded at the contract sum of N401.4 million to Commerce General Limited and so far, N312 million has been paid to the contractor, the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) said in response to a Freedom of Information request.

During the last visit, PREMIUM TIMES reporter observed the presence of the contractor at the site of the facility.

The management of NAEC did not respond to multiple inquiries on the rationale for redesign of the facility.

One of the staff members told this newspaper that the redesigning is unavoidable to correct the flaws of the contractor that first worked on the project.

He expressed optimism at the prospect of the facility.

“A lot of hazards will be reduced once it’s completed. As it is now, the country does not have a place to properly dispose our nuclear wastes. If it is completed and put to use, these hazards will be reduced. There is much to be benefitted if completed.”

Improved Security
………..But the level of security is not enough as expected of a nuclear technology centre says a staffer.

“The security is better but it’s not commensurate with what we expect in a nuclear environment. We commend the management for getting these people but they should give them orientation and we need armed security.

“There are differences. Before, if you come here, you won’t see anybody (at the gate). But now, it’s no longer like that. Even at weekends, you’ll meet them and policemen too. They are new and we feel that security of such places as this should be saddled with people that have at least basic educational level on nuclear technology,” he concluded. https://www. premiumtimesng.com/news/ headlines/279786-after- premium-times-report- contractors-complete- abandoned-projects-at- nigerias-nuclear-technology- centre.html

August 13, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, Nigeria | Leave a comment

South Africa can’t afford nuclear power expansion, but still open to nuclear deals with Russia

South Africa Opens Door to Future Russian Nuclear Power Deal, US News, July 26, 2018 , BY ALEXANDER WINNING, JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa cannot afford large-scale expansion of its nuclear power capacity but would still be open to future deals with Russia, a senior ruling party official said on Thursday, shortly before the arrival of President Vladimir Putin for a summit.

Russian state firm Rosatom was one of the front runners for a project to increase South Africa’s nuclear power-generating capacity championed by former president Jacob Zuma.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has put nuclear expansion on the back burner since taking office in February, saying it is too expensive, and has focused instead on pledges to revive the economy and crack down on corruption.

African National Congress Treasurer General Paul Mashatile, one of the six most powerful members of the ruling party, said Pretoria would not rush into major nuclear investments but that it was still open to deals. ………

Russia wants to turn nuclear energy into a major export industry. It has signed agreements with African countries with no nuclear tradition, including Rwanda and Zambia, and is set to build a large nuclear plant in Egypt.

Rosatom signed a separate agreement with South Africa’s state nuclear firm on Thursday to explore joint production of nuclear medicines and other ways of harnessing nuclear technology, a statement from the two firms showed.

The agreement, which is non-binding and is not related to large-scale power generation, is a further sign that Rosatom is keen to cement its position on the African continent.

The deal will involve the construction of two small reactors and a commercial cyclotron to produce medical isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals at a facility near Pretoria. https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2018-07-26/south-africa-cannot-afford-major-nuclear-expansion-top-anc-official

July 27, 2018 Posted by | marketing, South Africa | Leave a comment

Beyond Nuclear reports on little known Nigerian town and AREVA’s uranium mining

A forgotten community  The little town in Niger keeping the lights on in France, Beyond Nuclear By Lucas Destrijcker & Mahadi Diouara, 1 July 18 
Reprinted with kind permission from African Arguments

Welcome to Arlit, the impoverished uranium capital of Africa.

From Niamey, the capital of the landlocked West African nation of Niger, we call ahead to a desert town in the remote north of the country.

“Journalists? On their way here? It’s been a while”, we hear down the phone from our contact. “We welcome you with open arms, but only on the pretence that you’re visiting to interview migrants on their way to Algeria. If they find out you’re poking your nose in their business, it’s a lost cause.”

That same evening, the public bus jolts as it sets off. Destination: the gates of the Sahara.

The stuffy subtropical heat gradually fades into scorching drought and plains of seemingly endless ochre sands. About two days later, we pass through a gateway with “Arlit” written on it in rusty letters.

The town of about 120,000 inhabitants is located in one of the Sahel’s most remote regions, not far from the Algerian border. The surrounding area is known to be the operating territory of numerous bandits and armed groups, including Islamist militants. It is like an island in the middle of the desert, an artificial oasis with only one raison d’être: uranium………

approximately 150,000 tonnes of uranium have been extracted by the majority state-owned French company Areva, which is now one of the largest uranium producers in the world. The two mines around Arlit – Somaïr and Cominak – account for around a third of the multi-billion-dollar company’s total global production.

France uses this uranium to generate nuclear power, some of which is sold on to other European countries. According to Oxfam, over one-third of all lamps in France light up thanks to uranium from Niger.

However, in contrast to France, Niger has failed to see similar benefits. The West African country has become the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium, which contributes tens of millions to the nation’s budget each year. Yet it has remained one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries, with almost half its 20 million population living below the poverty line. Its annual budget has typically been a fraction of Areva’s yearly revenue.

The main reason for this is the deal struck between Areva and Niger. The details have not been made public, but some journalists and activists such as Ali Idrissa, who campaigns for more transparency in the industry, have seen the agreement. Amongst other things, the documents suggest that the original deal generously exempted Areva from customs, export, fuel, materials and revenue taxes………

Apart from criticising the Nigerien government for not spending its uranium revenue where it is most needed – such as in health care, education and agriculture – Idrissa ( Ali Idrissa, who campaigns for more transparency in the industry ) emphasises the bigger geopolitical picture: “Don’t forget that Niger isn’t just negotiating with a regular company, but with the French state. Their development aid, military and political support means that we cannot ignore our former coloniser. Our dependency from France goes hand in hand with crooked business deals.”

Forgotten in the desert

Exhausted from the long journey to Arlit, we’re received in the dingy office of Mouvement Unique des Organisations de la Société Civile d’Arlit (MUOSCA), a local umbrella group for environmental and humanitarian NGOs.

“If either Areva or the government were to find out you’re poking your nose in their business, they’ll go to any length to make your work very difficult”, says MUOSCA’s director Dan Ballan Mahaman Sani as he wipes the sweat from his brow. “Besides that, Westerners are attractive targets in this region.”

Indeed, there is a history of Islamist militant attacks and kidnappings in the area, including some directly targeting Areva. In 2010, seven of the company’s employees were abducted, including five French nationals. In 2013, an attack on the Somaïr mine left one dead and 16 injured.

While the world held its breath as armed groups stepped up operations in the region, Areva, managed to extract over 4,000 tons of uranium, up from two years before, without too much trouble.

Dan Ballan says this illustrates how far the Nigerien uranium industry stands apart from the country’s social environment and how isolated Arlit has become especially amidst regional insecurity.

“International NGOs or UN agencies don’t exist here, and Areva has nothing to fear from the Nigerien government,” he says. “We’re literally a forgotten community, completely left to the mercy of the multinational.”

Finding water

According to Dan Ballan and others, the uranium mining industry has taken a huge toll on Arlit and the region. While Areva has a multi-billion-dollar turnover, the majority of people here live in a patchwork of corrugated iron shelters on sandstone foundations. Poverty is rife. Power outages lasting two or more days are regarded as normal.

Moreover, while the uranium mines consume millions of litres each day, only a small proportion of Arlit’s Nigerien population enjoy running water. A 2010 Greenpeace study estimated that 270 billion litres of water had been used by the mines over decades of operations, draining a fossil aquifer more than 150 metres deep. The depletion of these ancient water reserves has contributed to desertification and the drying up of vegetation.

The water in Arlit, however, is not only scarce. Researchers over the years also suggest that, along with the soil and air, it contains alarming levels of radiotoxins.

Bruno Chareyon, director of the French Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radiation (CRIIAD), has been measuring radioactivity in and around Arlit for over a decade. His studies from 2003 and 2004 suggested that the drinking water contains levels of uranium at ten to hundred times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safety standards.

“Despite these findings, Areva has stated continuously that they haven’t measured any excess radioactivity during their biannual examinations,” he says.

In 2009, Greenpeace conducted their own tests and found that five of six examined wells – all used to get drinking water – contained excess radioactivity as well as traces of toxins such as sulphates and nitrates.

……… Toxic waste

At the bustling local market in Arlit, down some meandering alleyways, there are the normal wares, but among them one finds some more peculiar items: large industrial cogs; parts of metal cranes; digging equipment; and even a dump truck.

“All of these are cast-downs from the mines,” says Dan Ballan. “Useless material finds its way to local merchants, who recuperate it and sell it on. Most of them have no idea of the risks.”

CRIIRAD readings of goods at the market from 2003 and 2004 showed radioactivity levels at up to 25 times the maximum standards. “People buy radioactive material to cook with, build their homes with, or raise their children with,” says Dan Ballan…….

Greenpeace and CRIIRAD confirm that radioactive dust spreads far and wide, sometimes to hundreds of kilometres away. But contrary to claims of a “superfast decay”, they say that while some products have half-lives of just days, others have half-lives of tens of years.

Furthermore, researchers say that radioactive waste is not simply dispersed. “The same radioactive rubble was used in Arlit on more than one occasion for landfills or building roads and homes”, alleges Chareyron. In 2007, CRIIRAD found that some road surfaces had radioactive values over a hundred times standard values.

………. Living with uranium

It is not difficult to come across Arlit residents suffering from serious health problems. ………..

The only hospitals in Arlit are run by Areva, with all the medical staff on the company payroll. The government provides no healthcare here. At the Cominak facility, Dr Alassane Seydou claims to have never diagnosed someone with a disease that could be linked to radiation or toxins. He says that in more than 40 years, not a single case of cancer has been discovered. “All employees are systematically examined, but we haven’t encountered any strange diseases,” he claims.

In 2005, the French law association Sherpa launched an investigation into Areva’s activities in Arlit. Speaking to them, one former employee at Somaïr hospital alleged that patients with cancer had been knowingly miscategorised as having HIV or malaria. The surgeon-in-chief at the hospital denied those claims.

There have been no official, large-scale health studies conducted in Arlit, but some smaller-scale studies give an indication of the prevalence of illness among residents and former Areva employees.

In 2013, the Nigerien organisation Réseau Nationale Dette et Développement interviewed 688 former Areva workers. Almost one quarter of them had suffered severe medical issues, ranging from cancer and respiratory problems to pains in their joints and bones. At least 125 had stopped work because of these health issues.

A similar survey was carried out on French former employees around the same time. In 2012, Areva was found culpable in the death of Serge Venel, an engineer in Arlit from 1978-1985. A few months before his passing, doctors had found that his cancer was caused by the “breathing of uranium particles”. The case went to court, with the judge ordering Areva to pay compensation for its “inexcusable fault”. Before the court of appeals, only the Cominak mine was found responsible.

Following the verdict, Venel’s daughter, Peggy Catrin-Venel, founded an organisation to protect the rights of former Areva employees. As part of this project, she managed to trace around 130 of about 350 French workers who had lived in Arlit at the same time as her father. 60% of those she was able to find information on had already died, most of them from the same cancer as her father.

Standing up

Catrin-Venel continues to fight against Areva, but she is not alone. As shown in the documentary Uranium, L’héritage EmpoisonnéJacqueline Gaudet is also standing up to the company.

She founded the organisation Mounana after she lost her father, mother and husband all to cancer in the space of just a few years. Her husband and father had worked at an Areva uranium mine in Gabon, while her mother lived there in a house built from mining rubble. Their cancers were reportedly caused by excessive exposure to radon, which is released during uranium extraction. In collaboration with lawyers from Sherpa and Doctors of the World, Gaudet’s organisation works to collect testimonies from former employees in order to build cases.

For Michel Brugière, former director of Doctors of the World, it’s still unthinkable that so many employees of the French state-owned company could fall ill like this. Speaking in the documentary, he commented: “How can one allow one’s staff to live and work in such a polluted environment? This is unbelievable. It’s reminiscent of long gone abuses.”

In the same vein, Greenpeace describes Arlit as a forgotten battlefield of the nuclear industry. “There are few places where the catastrophic effects of uranium mining on nearby communities and the environment are felt more distinctly than in Niger”, said researcher Andrea Dixon.

Back in Arlit, the stories of French former employees standing up to Areva are well-known. But the struggle for Nigerien workers to get recognised is even steeper than in Europe. “Both the legal system and the financial means to stand up for our rights are lacking”, says Dan Ballan. “In a couple of years, the uranium reserves will be depleted and Areva will leave, however the pollution and underdevelopment will stay behind.”

He may be right, but Areva will not be going far. About 80km away, a third and enormous new Nigerien uranium mine called Imouraren is being developed. “Lacking any perspective of another job, the workers will eventually move 

wherever the mine is”, says the local activist……..

……Arlit, the little town that pays the ultimate price to keep the lights on in France. https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/72759838/posts/1909889644

This story was realised with the support of Free Press Unlimited and the Lira Starting Grant for Young Journalists of the Fonds voor Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten.

The article originally appeared July 18, 2017 on African Arguments

July 2, 2018 Posted by | environment, health, Niger, Uranium | Leave a comment

In South Africa, there’s confusion about the new government’s policy on matters nuclear

Nuclear energy: Ramaphosa’s mixed messages https://www.news24.com/Analysis/nuclear-energy-ramaphosas-mixed-messages-20180629 Ellen Davies and Saliem Fakir 

June 29, 2018 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Russia, Rwanda establish nuclear energy ties

 WNN, 27 June 2018

Russia’s Rosatom and the Ministry of Infrastructure of Rwanda have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The document was signed on 22 June by Rosatom Deputy Director General Nikolay Spassky and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the Russian Federation Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya……

Rosatom signed a similar MoU in February with the Ministry of Scientific Research and Technological Innovations of the Republic of Congo, and with the Kenyan Council for nuclear energy in June 2016. http://world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Russia-Rwanda-establish-nuclear-energy-ties-26061801.html

June 29, 2018 Posted by | AFRICA, marketing, Russia | Leave a comment