The crisis that’s affecting the African nation, which has about 5% of the world’s uranium, may potentially tighten supplies of the material used to fuel nuclear reactors in the US, China and Europe. That may force utilities to become more dependent on other producers such as Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
The maintenance of Orano’s uranium-treatment plant in Niger — initially planned to start early next year — has been moved forward amid dwindling stockpiles of the chemicals needed for processing, the company said in a statement Friday.
Operations continue at the group’s Somair mine, which is 37% owned by the Niger government, the company said.
Orano usually exports uranium concentrate to Benin, where it’s either shipped back to France or to Canada. There typically are about 4-6 shipments a year.
To ensure supply for its customers, Orano is also sourcing material from mines in Canada and Kazakhstan where it has stakes, the company said. There’s no emergency in the short term, it said.
Ties between Niger and France, its former colonial ruler, have frayed since soldiers seized control of the country in July and ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. French President Emmanuel Macron has strongly condemned the coup, saying it poses a threat to the entire region.