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Radiating Africa - Lobby Trajectory week with African project partners

(May 28, 2014) Radiating Africa - The Menace of Uranium Mining

The Nuclear Security Summit and Nuclear Industry Summit were prominent in the media in March 2014. Fukushima and Chernobyl were commemorated in March and April. But what about the rest of the year? And what about the front end of the nuclear fuel chain? Uranium exploration and mining are the starting points of the nuclear fuel chain. Who is actually taking responsibility? What impact does it have on countries in Africa and elsewhere?

These and many more questions were addressed during the successful, week-long Lobby Trajectory in the Netherlands. The Lobby Trajectory is part of the project Enhancing transparency in the uranium chain and supporting responsible practices; uranium mining: a comparison of producing and near-producing countries. WISE coordinates this project, supported by International Union for Conservation of Nature, National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL), partner in the Ecosystem Alliance.

African Civil Society Organizations are the core project partners of the project: the National Commission for Justice and Peace (Service National de Justice et Paix / SNJP) of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (NECC), Association Malienne pour la Conservation de la Faune et de l'Environnement (AMCFE) from Mali, and the Tanzanian environmental organisation Civil Education is the Solution for Poverty and Environmental Management (CESOPE). Representatives from those three partner organisations came to Europe, particularly to the Netherlands, to raise awareness about their struggles and the menace of uranium mining in their countries. In Cameroon, Mali and Tanzania uranium mining is threatening environment and society. Exploration licences have been issued in many parts already.

Together with her WISE colleagues and with the support of Mark van der Wal (IUCN NL), project coordinator Ulrike Lerche organised the Lobby Trajectory and accompanied the project partners from May 10−18 2014. The organisations and contacts visited were diverse and included the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, politicians including a member of the Dutch Parliament and of a governing party - visited together with Dirk Bannink from Laka Foundation (Documentation and Research Centre on Nuclear Energy), WISE and IUCN NL, furthermore NGOs that are engaged in topics such as resource conflicts as e.g. the Foundation Max van der Stoel, the Falea-Mali-Committee, SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations), PAX, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, Friends of the Earth International and also met media, etc.

The lobby week also included an excursion to the renewable energy company Raedthuys and one of its wind farms in the Netherlands. The delegation took part in a training session on radiation measurements by Rianne Teule from Greenpeace Belgium as well and gave a joint workshop with the Dutch Network for Environmental Professionals VVM on uranium mining: supply chain responsibility, transparency and environmental impacts in Africa.

The delegation also visited one of the facilities of the Uranium Enrichment Company URENCO. The African project partners, WISE and IUCN NL got a guided tour of the plant in Almelo, and talked with the CEO and other employees of URENCO Nederland (Netherlands). Unfortunately the CEO of URENCO Nederland B.V. Huub Rakhorst refused to commit to more transparency about URENCO's operations. Although the visit was one of the highlights of the week taking into account that visit requests were refused before and a dialogue was possible now, the lack of moral obligation of URENCO regarding more transparency in the fuel chain was disappointing. Nevertheless it was a promising start for further dialogue.

A public film and debate event called Radiating Africa – the Menace of Uranium Mining gave the finishing touch to an intense week of talks, networking and publicity. What are the impacts of uranium mining on the environment and society? The project partners from Mali, Cameroon and Tanzania took the floor and presented their cases with documentaries, discussion and images. The critical documentary Yellow Cake and the controversial pro-nuclear documentary Pandora's Promise showed different perspectives. Nuclear expert Prof. Dr. Wim Turkenburg discussed some of the issues raised in Pandora's Promise and contested the film's reasoning and factual accuracy. Furthermore, an interactive fishbowl discussion enabled the audience to debate nuclear power, climate change, the nuclear fuel chain, (corporate) social responsibility, and uranium mining.