afrol News, 7 October - Anti-nuclear activists took radioactively contaminated soils from Niger to the doorsteps of the European Parliament in Brussels, protesting the pollution by French company Areva in the West African country.
The activists from Greenpeace maintained they were taking the dangerous waste "back" to those ordering and producing it, as a reminder that "there is no solution to nuclear waste." This comes as the parliamentarians prepare to consider a new nuclear waste directive.
The radical environmentalist group, which is against nuclear energy production in general, lately has dedicated much work and research to Niger, a main uranium producer. Greenpeace holds it can document large environmental damage in connection with uranium production in Niger.
The 300 gram soil sample presented in Brussels were from "the uranium mining village of Akokan in Niger," according to the Greenpeace activists, where the French company Areva produces nuclear fuel for nuclear power stations worldwide.
The sample had shown several dangerous nuclear minerals. Alone the Uranium-238 levels "are six times over the Belgian limit," according to Greenpeace's own research.
"The uranium mining region in Niger is continuously polluted by radioactive dust, waste rocks and radon gas from mining operations and tailings," according to the group. "Greenpeace found not only contamination near one mining vent, but also in the streets of Akokan and on vehicles at scrap metal dealers."
According to the group, Areva was making large revenues in impoverished Niger, while leaving the country with "centuries of environmental pollution and health risks for its citizens." Nuclear wastes often take centuries to break down to less polluting minerals.
Also Nigerien environmentalists, such as Almoustapha Alhacen, have complained over Areva's practices for years. Mr Alhacen has stated that "our waters are polluted, radioactive dusts blow over the desert and people get sick. While uranium mining bring working opportunities, it brings no infrastructure or health services."
Areva however holds it operates within Nigerien legislation and provides much needed employment and social infrastructure. "99 percent of AREVA's staff in Niger is from Niger," the company holds, adding that its subsidiaries are "organising important health and development programmes," including building schools, local economic development and training for disadvantaged young people.
The Greenpeace activists in Brussels also brought with them polluted soils from localities near nuclear plants in Scotland, France and Belgium. According to Belgian media reports, the potentially dangerous waste was removed by local authorities soon after the protest action.
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