by Stéphanie Dubois de Prisque and Opale Crivello,
(english translation by volunteers – Thank you!)
Association Survie and Editions Agone have published Areva in Africa – The hidden face of French nuclear energy, written by Raphael Granvaud, as part of the Black Dossier series. Its release in bookstores tomorrow, will be accompanied by protests organized in partnership with the Réseau Sortir du nucléaire (Nuclear Exit Network). The major issues addressed in the book were presented to the press February 9 by the author and representatives of Survie, Réseau Sortir du nucléaire and Gabonese civil society.
Fabrice Tarrit, the President of Survie, introduced the book by saying, “Areva is a very important part of President Sarkozy’s policy to promote French interests in Africa. We want to focus on this company, which is at the heart of the Franco-African system, and on its diplomatic, political, military connections. This company essentially belongs to the French government and, therefore, to taxpayers”.
“The purpose of this Black Dossier”, explained Raphael Granvaud, “is to end the myth of “energy independence,” a re-occuring theme in the rhetoric of French political authorities over a period of 40 years.” This myth is based on various statistical manipulations, the main one being “the fact that uranium imports that are not considered energy imports in official statistics. (…) This goes hand in hand with concealing the role of Africa in the entire history of French nuclear, from its beginnings.” France still seems to think it owns the subsoil of its former colonies. Since 2001, France has imported all of its uranium and about 30% comes from the Niger subsoil—extracted by subsidiaries of Areva.
While France has benefitted greatly from uranium by co-opting the authoritarian regimes that provided uranium at the best price, “Niger has only inherited a triple catastrophe: an environmental catastrophe, a health catastrophe and a social catastrophe”, stated the author. According to various NGOs, only 12% of the value of Nigerian uranium returned to the country. Niger powers one in three French lightbulbs but it imports electricity from Nigeria, and the majority of Nigerians don’t even have electricity.
According to the spokesperson from the Réseau Sortir du nucléaire, Opale Crivello, “Areva refuses to take responsibilty.” There are 300 million tonnes of abandoned radioactive waste from 210 mines that Cogema (the former name of Areva) operated between 1946 and 2001 in more than 25 French departments. Furthermore, the IRSN is clear: uranium workers die younger and develop kidney and lung cancer. This is not only true of miners. “Areva claims that at this time no pathologies have been connected to radioactivity. This is untrue! Areva knows very well what Nigerians have endured and incurred. Faced with this scandal, and in light of what happened in France, we are obliged to denounce the situation in Niger,” concluded Crivello.
Bruno Ondo the former diocesan director of Caritas Gabon gives startling evidence. “Over 40 years, 2 million tonnes of radioactive waste were dumped into the water ways and 4 million tonnes into abandoned quarries,” that surround the uranium mines exploited by the Gabonese Cogema subsidiary. Thirteen years after the closure of the Mounana site riverside residents and former miners continue to experience the effects. “Exclusion zones due to the high levels of radioactivity exist inside developed areas where people go to plant manioc, where they fish and near their homes. The real price of uranium is paid by communities!” After pressure from civil society, health inspectors were sent in by the Gabonese government and Areva but, even now, “this investigation is in name only.” Given that Areva could begin new uranium mine exploration in Gabon, Bruno Ondo is angry, “What right has Areva to return to Gabon?”
Accompanying the book’s release on February 16, a number of conferences held throughout France will discuss this subject. The conferences are designed to take decision makers to task in a context of strong political debate over the place and cost of nuclear energy and the activities of Areva.
To see the 4 videos of the press conference go to this dailymotion video post.