Respecting radiation exposure levels
AREVA’s mines in Niger have a strong safety culture. A proactive health and safety program improves working conditions for group employees and reduces the number of work accidents and occupational illnesses while anticipating regulatory changes.
Ensuring the safety of employees and local populations
Protecting personnel against risks related to ionizing radiation and preventing work accidents are constant preoccupations.
Employees are involved in the implementation of prevention and improvement initiatives. The management relies on the competency, professional conscience, and accountability of each employee to detect any shortfalls so that preventive action can be taken in the areas of safety, occupational health and environmental protection. When at work, each individual ensures through his actions that the systems of risk prevention are continually improved.
Several important measures have been taken to protect employees and the local population from radiation.
- The annual maximum exposure level in Niger mines has been set at 18 millisieverts (mSv) per employee, as opposed to the maximum of 20 mSv required by international regulations. European and Nigerien regulations have set an average maximum exposure of 1 mSv per year over 5 years for the local population.
- Each exposed employee has a personal dosimetric monitoring sheet.
- Radiological test results are supplied by the independent ALGADE laboratories, which monitor employee exposure to uranium and measure environmental radioactivity.
- Public information and awareness campaigns are organized regularly.
Actions taken by AREVA have steadily improved radiation protection performance. At the end of 2009, the 1,400 COMINAK and SOMAÏR employees and 700 contractors who were exposed to radiation had dosimetric readings of 16 mSv or less per year.
Limits set for the general public are also respected around the mines and in the neighboring towns of Arlit and Akokan.
ALGADE is part of the CARSO group, authorized to provide expert analysis and adopt radiation protection measures. The company is approved by the French Nuclear Safety Authority to:
- monitor employees’ external and internal exposure to natural radionuclides in the uranium and thorium decay chains,
- carry out, in their own laboratories, environmental radioactivity testing.
Providing information about the health impact of mining sites
The Health Observatories are an innovative, multi-party scientific undertaking that bring together AREVA, governments and NGOs. They will allow authorities, former employees and local residents to be fully informed of the health impact of mining sites (past or present) operated by AREVA.
Launched in Gabon in October 2010, the observatories will be introduced in Niger as soon as the national authorities validate the agreement protocol.
The Niger Public Health Observatory will provide the following services:
- Post-professional care for former employees exposed to uranium, including a medical examination (a clinical examination, a chest X-ray for those who were exposed to ore, blood tests, etc.) every 2 years.
- Health monitoring for local populations who live within the impact zone of mining operations, including analysis of all available independent and scientific data (medical registers of detected illness, hospital reports, case studies, etc.).
- A study of miner mortality rates between 1968 and 2005 to ensure full disclosure of the impact of past and present mining activities.