Experts have expressed concerns over the recent military coup in Niger, fearing that the junta will possibly disrupt uranium exports to France, potentially impacting its nuclear power production.
Niger is the world’s seventh-biggest producer of Uranium, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA). As Africa’s highest-grade uranium ores produced 2,020 metric tons of uranium in 2022, which is equivalent to 5% of the world’s mining.
France derives about 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy and is also the world’s largest net exporter of nuclear energy, bringing in more than €3 billion per year, according to France 24.
According to Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Bayero University Kano, Sulaiman Sadi Ibrahim, an expert in infectious diseases primarily transmitted by mosquito vectors, “about 24% of uranium imports in the European Union come from Niger. France derives 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy, using Nigerien Uranium, while more than 80% of Niger people lack electricity.”
He further reinstated that France, being at the forefront of colonialism in African countries in those days, still does not fail to extract from Francophone countries, making them pay close to $500 billion every year in colonial tax to France, with 85% of their foreign reserves also forcefully domiciled in French banks. They need to apply first with justification before their monies can be released to them in instalments, with most of whatever work/project they wish to do in their country, to be done by French companies. Anyone who tries to resist this will be punished, as done to Guinea and Togo for refusing to pay ~40% of their annual budget to France as a token of appreciation for colonialism. Until 2014, to my knowledge, 14 African countries pay such monies to France.”
But after the coup in the West African country, Niger reportedly intends to suspend uranium supplies to France, raising questions about what role the industry should play in France’s energy future.
The report added that some political opponents in France questioned the role of nuclear power in France’s energy portfolio, notably given French President Emmanuel Macron’s repeated calls for energy independence. “Niger supplies France with the uranium it needs for its nuclear power plants,” Sandrine Rousseau, a left-wing Green politician said.
According to UMOA titres, the outlook of Niger’s economy remains favourable as the country plans to increase its domestic oil production to 200,000 barrels per day by 2025, from a production of 20,000 barrels per day currently. Oil is estimated to account for 25% of the country’s GDP in 2025 and nearly 50% of the country’s budget. This will constitute 80% of the country’s total export earnings.
Niger has maintained a market share of between 4% and 6% of the global uranium trade for the last decade, according to the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), and supplied France with around 18% of its uranium between 2005 and 2020.
However, France’s largest suppliers, Kazakhstan and Australia, provided 20% and 19%, respectively, while Uzbekistan’s supplies have been on the increase in recent years. Thus, France may be able to withstand an unexpected export ban on Nigerien uranium.
An anonymous government official said, “France is not dependent on any one site, company, or country to ensure the security of supply for its power plants.”
Similarly, the EU’s nuclear agency Euratom, which gets one-quarter of its uranium from Niger, has also said it is not worried about the coup affecting nuclear power production. It explained that the 27-nation bloc had sufficient inventories of uranium to mitigate any short-term supply risks.
But the report pointed out that the possible suspension of uranium supplies to France also raises questions about whether Niger could effectively replace French demand without seeing a sharp economic decline itself, as 33% of its exports go to France. Despite vast uranium reserves, Niger remains radically underdeveloped.