Exclusive: Tons of uranium are missing from the Libyan site, the IAEA reports to member states

  • IAEA inspectors visited a location not controlled by the government
  • Inspection postponed since 2022 due to security situation
  • Watchdog found 10 barrels of natural uranium missing
  • IAEA sees possible radiological risks, safety issues

VIENNA, March 15 (Reuters) – Inspectors from the UN’s nuclear watchdog have found that about 2.5 tonnes of natural uranium have disappeared from a Libyan site not under government control, the watchdog told in a statement on Wednesday. Member States, as accessed by Reuters.

The finding is the result of an inspection originally scheduled for last year that “had to be postponed due to the security situation in the region” and was finally conducted Tuesday, according to the confidential statement of Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Organization.

IAEA inspectors “found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of UOC (uranium ore concentrate) previously declared by (Libya) … as stored at that site were not present at the site”, the one-page statement said.

The agency would conduct “further activities” to determine the circumstances surrounding the removal of the uranium from the site, which it did not name, and where it is now, the statement added.

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“The loss of knowledge about the current location of nuclear material could pose a radiological risk, as well as nuclear safety concerns,” it said, adding that reaching the location required “complex logistics”.

In 2003, under the leadership of then-leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya renounced its nuclear weapons program, which had obtained centrifuges capable of enriching uranium and design information for a nuclear bomb, although it made little progress towards a bomb.

Libya has seen little peace since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that ousted Gaddafi. Since 2014, political control has been split between rival Eastern and Western factions, with the last major conflict ending in 2020.

Libya’s interim government, set up in early 2021 through a UN-backed peace plan, would only last until elections scheduled for December of that year, which have still not been held, and its legitimacy is also now being challenged .

Reporting by Fran├žois Murphy; Edited by Frank Jack Daniel and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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