Managing contaminated waste rock and materials

Somaïr ore processing plant. Niger

Recognizing its responsibility toward people living near its mines, AREVA strictly controls the presence of contaminated materials outside of its industrial sites. In this way, the group sees to it that human and environmental exposure to ionizing radiation is kept to an absolute minimum.

Reinforced monitoring operations

Radiological monitoring. Akouta ore processing plant. Cominak. Niger. Africa

In 2002, AREVA reinforced its radiological testing of contaminated materials outside of industrial sites in Niger. This approach was confirmed in April 2010 when AREVA signed a series of procedures with stakeholders and local authorities. These procedures to strengthen radiological testing of materials and equipment in the streets of Arlit and Akokan are implemented in partnership with Nigerien authorities.

Measurements are taken regularly by teams made up of AREVA staff and representatives of local authorities and NGOs. Initial results indicated a small number of very slightly contaminated materials that did not present a health risk for the local population. At the conclusion of these inspections, a document will be published in 2011 detailing the actions taken.

Radiological protection of personnel

Anyone working at a group installation where radioactive material is present, whether an employee of the group or one of its subcontractors, is informed of the risks they run and the measures taken to prevent and manage these risks.

Workers receive the necessary training and benefit from the same protections regardless of their job. Employees are involved in the implementation of prevention and improvement actions. They have a duty to call attention to any abnormality or non-compliance with a legal obligation that they observe.

The ALARA principal

Protecting workers from ionizing radiation, whether they are employees of the group or outside workers, is a priority for AREVA.

Accordingly, the application of the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle, which states that human and environmental exposure to ionizing radiation should be as low as reasonably possible, is a basic rule for dosimetric optimization.

Monitoring materials moved off-site

AREVA is committed to correcting and preventing any practices that do not comply with established procedures or Nigerien regulations.

Contrary to former practice, materials which are of no further use at the mines (e.g., scrap metal) and waste rock must now undergo radiological testing and, if need be, decontamination, before passing into the public domain.

Testing procedures were strengthened in 2007 to prevent any materials that have been in contact with uranium-bearing solutions from being moved off-site.

The mining companies are also trying to crack down on the theft or illegal sale of scrap metal from their sites. AREVA has deployed resources to fight these activities and, as a precaution, joins with the Ministry of Mines and Energy to regularly inspect for radioactivity at scrap metal dealers.

AREVA’s environmental actions in Niger
Environmental monitoring: freshwater sampling. Village near Cominak. Akouta. Niger. Africa

AREVA’s mining operations in Niger undergo regular, detailed environmental inspections to reduce their impact and keep local populations informed.

Reclaiming former mine sites

At the end of their lifecycle, mining sites are dismantled and reclaimed in strict compliance with current environmental standards and in cooperation with local communities.