Two tons of “natural uranium” are said to have disappeared from a storage site in Libya
About 2.5 tonnes of uranium that was supposed to be stored at a site in Libya was not there when International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors visited, Reuters reported on Wednesday quoting a statement confidential watchdog of the UN.
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 being stored at that location were not present at that location,” Reuters cited says general manager Rafael Grossi.
The check was carried out on Tuesday. It was originally planned for last year, but “had to be postponed due to the security situation in the region”, Grossi noted in the one-page report sent to IAEA members.
The IAEA will carry out “other activites” to determine where the uranium was and how it disappeared from the site. The agency did not name the location, saying only that it was not under the control of the internationally recognized government and that reaching it required complex logistics.
Loss of knowledge about the current location of nuclear material can present a radiological hazard, as well as nuclear security concerns.
Libya had obtained uranium enrichment centrifuges and model atomic bombs, but gave up its nuclear weapons program in 2003, in a bid to restore relations with the West. Eight years later, NATO supported an insurgency against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Benghazi, bombing Libya on behalf of the militants.
On March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council voted in favor of the US proposal to establish a “no-fly zone” on Libya, for humanitarian reasons. Brazil, Russia, India, China and Germany are absent.
Within days, NATO would launch a bombing campaign against the government, while the US and British navies blockaded the Libyan coast. Gaddafi was horribly executed in October 2011. When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was told of his death in a TV interview, she laughed and said “We came, we saw, he died.”
Once Africa’s most prosperous country, Libya quickly descended into a civil war between rival warlords. The UN-backed caretaker government was supposed to hold elections in December 2021, but never did. The country has been de facto split between factions based in Tripoli and Benghazi.
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