French corp Orano halts Uranium processing in Niger
Orano SA has halted uranium ore processing at a Niger facility due to international sanctions against the new government.
Orano SA, the prominent French nuclear company, has announced the suspension of uranium ore processing at one of its facilities in Niger due to the logistical complications caused by international sanctions imposed against the military junta ruling the African nation, Bloomberg reported.
This development has raised concerns about potential disruptions in the global uranium supply chain. Niger, with approximately 5% of the world's uranium reserves, plays a significant role in providing the material essential for fueling nuclear reactors in the United States, China, and Europe (especially France).
The disruption in Niger's uranium production could compel utilities in these regions to increasingly rely on alternative sources such as Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia.
Orano SA had initially scheduled maintenance for its uranium-treatment plant in Niger to commence early next year. However, in response to diminishing stockpiles of necessary processing chemicals, the company has expedited the maintenance process, as indicated in a statement released on Friday.
While uranium-processing activities were temporarily halted, operations at Orano's Somair mine, in which the Niger government holds a 37% stake, continue unaffected.
Orano typically exports uranium concentrate to Benin, where it is subsequently shipped either to France or Canada. The company's standard practice involves approximately 4 to 6 shipments annually.
In light of the current situation, Orano is taking measures to secure the supply of uranium for its customers. It is actively sourcing material from its mining interests in Canada and Kazakhstan: ensuring that there is no immediate emergency in the short term.
Relations between Niger and France, its former colonial ruler, deteriorated sharply after Paris supported ousted president Bazoum.
On August 3, the military government of Niger announced that it was scrapping all military agreements with France, which has 1,500 troops stationed in the country.
France has rejected the move, saying that only the legitimate government of Niger can make such a decision.
The military leaders said that the agreements had different expiration dates, but one of them, which was signed in 2012, was due to expire within a month.