Jan 232013
 
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Local outcry, resistance over radiation in water has caused unrest.

by Adam Elliott-Cooper

France opened 2013 with a series of airstrikes on Northern Mali to prevent “the establishment of a terrorist state”. At the time of writing, 11 civilians (including two children) have been killed, and according to the UN, an estimated 30,000 have been displaced.

The morbid irony of the France’s leaders bombing people in order to prevent a “terrorist state” appears to be lost on them, but this may be due to their eyes being on something far more important – Mali’s economy.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 as part of the ‘Global War on Terror’ was a war in which France refused to directly participate. The general consensus is that the invasion of Iraq was a quest for oil, and yet the French invasion of Mali is not dissimilar.

Like its neighbour, Niger, Mali is rich in a number of resources, including uranium. Following the "oil shock" of 1973 in which the oil producing nations sharply increased the price of oil, the French decided an alternative route was needed. This alternative was nuclear energy.

During the 15 years following the shock, France built 56 nuclear reactors, more than any other country in the world. France now has 59 nuclear reactors, generating nearly 80 percent of its electricity, making it the world’s largest net electricity exporter. In 1999, the French parliament confirmed three objectives in relation to this newly found wealth, the first: security of supply.

This "security" has been challenged by labour unions and social movements across the region, such as Almoustapha Alhacen of Aghirin, who found that the local drinking water had been contaminated with alpha and beta radioactivity levels which did not meet EU or World Health Organisation standards.

Demonstrations in Niger against uranium mining company AREVA, which also operates in Mali, became so popular that AREVA president Mme Anne Lauvergeon had to fly over in an effort to reassure the population….

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