Niger has some of the world’s most extensive deposits of uranium, a key ingredient in the nuclear industry.
The European Union’s nuclear agency, Euratom, says it sees no immediate risks to the EU’s nuclear power production should Niger cut its deliveries of uranium due to its military coup.
Eurotom told the Reuters news agency that the bloc had enough uranium inventories to fuel its nuclear power reactors for three years.
“If imports from Niger are being cut, there are not immediate risks to the security of nuclear power production in the short term,” Euratom said.
Adalbert Jahnz, spokesman of the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, also said, “medium- and long-term, there are enough deposits on the world market” to cover EU needs.
Niger has some of the world’s most extensive deposits of uranium, a key ingredient for the nuclear industry.
French firm Orano, previously Areva, has been a significant player in the West African nation for decades and operates a key uranium mine there.
The company said it was monitoring the situation closely, but the coup had not affected the delivery of uranium supplies.
Euratom said in 2022, Niger delivered 2,975 tonnes of natural uranium, or 25.4 percent of the EU’s supplies.
Kazakhstan was the biggest supplier of the bloc with Canada coming in second.
In total, Kazakhstan, Niger and Canada supplied 74 percent of the total uranium delivered to the EU.
The nuclear agency said the natural uranium equivalent in inventories owned by EU utilities last year totalled 35,710 tonnes, compared with the average annual consumption of about 12,500 tonnes.
It said the bloc could diversify imports in three years, including from currently idled production sites in Canada, Australia and Namibia as well as from new deposits.
Last week, Niger’s military took over the government and toppled President Mohamed Bazoum and his elected government.
Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum was elected two years ago in the first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960. But on Wednesday members of his own presidential guard removed him from office. The coup leaders say they want to prevent further economic and security problems. Niger’s neighbours, Mali and Burkina Faso, have seen four military takeovers since 2020.
Niger’s former colonial ruler, France, has begun efforts to evacuate its citizens and those from EU countries as governments fear fallout from the coup.
The United States, Germany and Italy also have troops in the country on training missions and operations to fight armed groups, but there has been no announcement of their evacuation.
On Sunday, supporters of the military coup burned French flags and attacked the French embassy, and locals said they want the country to stop intervening in their affairs.
The coup has sent shock waves across the Sahel region, where Niger’s Western allies fear losing influence to Russia.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, hailed the coup as a move towards independence from the West and said his forces were available to restore order.
The Kremlin said the situation was “cause for serious concern”, and it called for a swift return to the constitutional order.