According to military sources, about two tons of stolen radioactive uranium had been discovered at a warehouse in southern Libya.
Nuclear safety concerns were aroused by the removal of the uranium, causing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to release a secret statement notifying member states of the disappearance.
2.5 Tons of Uranium
During an inspection at an unidentified location in the war-torn country on Tuesday, its inspectors reported the disappearance of around 2.5 tons of uranium.
The IAEA noted the facility was located in a location, not under the administration of the Government of National Unity in Tripoli. Accessing it would involve “complicated logistics.”
Two and a half tonnes of uranium have gone missing from Libya site, UN says https://t.co/NAc1olvglD
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 16, 2023
On Thursday, Khaled Mahjoub, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA), issued a statement announcing the recovery of the missing uranium at a facility near the Chad border.
In his statement, he claimed that 10 barrels had been retrieved, even though a video he provided showed personnel totaling 18 barrels. Several blue-painted barrels in the video looked to have batch numbers, but the camera did not show the barrels being opened.
Barrels containing the 2.5 tons of uranium that were declared missing by the IAEA have been found by Eastern Libyan forces near its border with Chad. The Libyan army reported 10, but the video shows 18 being counted.
— Donald Standeford (@Don_Standeford) March 17, 2023
Mahjoub disclosed the location where the barrels were discovered was a warehouse on the border with Chad. It had been examined by the IAEA in 2020 and secured with red wax. The recovered barrels had been abandoned around three miles from the storage facility.
He hypothesized that a squad of Chadian rebel militants invaded the warehouse and grabbed the barrels in the hope they contained weapons or ammunition, but eventually abandoned them.
The IAEA responded it was aware of media claims that uranium had been discovered and was attempting to confirm them. It was feared that the missing uranium posed a nuclear security concern.
Each ton of natural uranium ore might be refined into 12 pounds of weapons-grade uranium by a group with the requisite knowledge and equipment, such as centrifuges.
A Nation Divided
The LNA, led by warlord Khalifa Haftar, fought opposing western troops until 2020, when a truce was struck, resulting in a split country.
The internationally recognized administration in Tripoli, led by the Chair of the Presidential Council of the State of Libya, Mohamed al-Menfi, as well as the House of Representatives in the eastern province of Tobruk, share control of the country.
The event exemplifies Libya’s continued security issues, which are still divided among competing militias. It isn’t easy to protect and monitor the nation’s nuclear resources due to its wide area and porous borders.
The finding of the missing uranium serves as a reminder of the threat presented by the spread of nuclear materials, which might fall into the wrong hands and constitute a grave security risk.
The IAEA has previously worried about the safety of Libya’s nuclear materials, particularly following the 2011 overthrow of former ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
The discovery of the lost uranium is a positive step that may assist in mitigating the hazards connected with its absence.
Yet, it is a wake-up call for the Libyan government to take more aggressive efforts to protect its nuclear materials and prevent them from getting into the hands of non-state actors or terrorist organizations.
The IAEA plays a crucial role in assisting Libya to strengthen its nuclear safeguards and prevent the spread of nuclear assets.This article appeared in The Political Globe and has been published here with permission.