Niger Mulls Nuclear Power Plant to Exploit Its Uranium Resources

Niger, one of the world’s top producers of uranium, is considering the construction a nuclear power plant to exploit its own resources after export prices of the fuel fell following the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

“We have been exporting raw materials without realizing the expected benefits as prices dropped after Fukushima,” Salamatou Djibo Gourouza, presidential adviser on energy and mining, said in an interview in Kwale, Kenya on Wednesday. “Nuclear plants are a better way of ensuring our country gets real benefit from the massive uranium deposits.”

Global uranium prices have fallen about 45 percent since the Fukushima meltdown four years ago prompted Japan to close reactors. Prices have risen since the second half of last year as the Asian nation prepared to restart some of its reactors.

While Niger is one of the world’s poorest nations, it accounted for 8 percent of global uranium output in 2011, ranking as the fourth-largest producer, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In the largely desert-covered West African country, where only one in 10 people have access to grid power, the state is trying to improve the supply of electricity and seek investment in mining to boost the $7.4 billion economy. It imports about 60 percent of the electricity that households and businesses consume from neighboring Nigeria, Gourouza said.

Niger produces about 5,000 metric tons of uranium annually and holds 10 percent of world’s reserves of the fuel, according to Djibo Takoubakoye Daouda, a director at the High Authority for Atomic Energy of Niger. A nuclear power plant in Niger with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts could raise gross domestic product by as much as a quarter, he said. The target is to build a facility by 2030.

Some of the main miners of uranium in the country include Compagnie Miniere d’Akouta, or Cominak, and Societe des Mines de l’Air, also known as Somair.

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