Niger radiation poisoning scandal13th April 2010
Many people in Niger are suffering from radiation poisoning, in what is being called a public health disaster, according to Greenpeace and other researchers.
There are high amounts of radioactivity in townships near the West African country's uranium mines, and about 80,000 people are affected.
Levels are 500 times higher than normal in some regions of the country.
Nearly 50 years ago now, people speculated that Niger, the world's poorest country, would solve its economic woes by selling the uranium found under its soil.
However, according to several recent reports, Niger's uranium mining is a public health disaster.
The French state-owned company Areva responsible for the mining says it has eliminated the environmental contamination in Niger.
However, according to a recent Greenpeace report, high radioactivity can still be found in the ground near the uranium mines, where about 80,000 people live.
Rianne Teule, nuclear energy campaigner for Greenpeace International, said that his organisation found dangerously high levels of radiation in the streets of Akokan, which Areva had claimed to eliminate.
He said that they had also found a high concentration of uranium in four of five samples of drinking water from Arlit, in doses beyond the limits established by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The findings are supported by earlier studies done by the independent investigative commission on radioactivity, CRIIRAD, and Aghir In’Man, a local organisation.
Researchers from both groups found that radiation levels in the streets of Akokan were much higher than normal.
Teule said that, in order to exceed the maximum allowable annual radiation dose enforced by law in most countries, a person would not even need to spend one hour in Niger's regions of top contamination.
According to CRIIRAD, waste rock from Niger's uranium mines ended up being used in road construction.
Bruno Chareyron, an engineer in nuclear physics and director of research at CRIIRAD, said that his team had given its findings to the Areva board of directors.
He said that they had called for a comprehensive cleanup of the towns and villages around the mines.
Alain Joseph, a French hydrogeologist working in Niger, said that the country's pasture economy was about to disappear in the northeast.
He said that mine projects there had over-exploited the country's water supplies.
Australian, Canadian, and Chinese companies have also conducted uranium research in Niger, and may eventually build mines there.
Joseph said that mining in Niger was draining water from the only source of water in the country's northeastern region, decimating both the environment and public health.
He said that the mining would destroy the economic foundations of the Tuareg, Fula, Kounta and other pastoral, nomadic people in the north of the country.
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Title: Niger radiation poisoning scandal
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 14617
Date Added: 13th Apr 2010