IAEA reports 2.5 tons of uranium ore concentrate missing in Libya

Archive – The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi – Dean Calma/IAEA/dpa

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has denounced the disappearance of 2.5 tons of uranium from a facility in Libya after its inspectors made a visit earlier this week, with no further clarification of what happened so far.

A spokesman for the agency told BBC television that ten containers of concentrated uranium ore had gone missing from the facility, raising concerns about radiation risks and nuclear safety concerns.

He also stated that the place where this uranium was stored is outside the control of the unity government, based in the capital, Tripoli, while stressing that he will act to »clarify the circumstances surrounding the removal of nuclear material and its current location».

The uranium ore concentrate is slightly radioactive, although a nuclear chain reaction cannot be triggered from this material unless it is processed in complex facilities and through a series of steps for use in the development of nuclear energy or even the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

Libya abandoned its program to develop nuclear weapons in 2003, after importing more than 2,000 tons of uranium ore concentrate from Niger between the 1970s and 1980s during the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. The country has been plunged into instability since the capture and execution of Qaddafi in October 2011 as part of an armed uprising in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’.

The political crisis in Libya worsened following the postponement of elections scheduled for December 2021 and the decision of the House of Representatives to appoint Fazi Bashaga as prime minister by terminating the mandate of the unity prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibé, leading to a new administrative bicephaly in the African country.

The unity government rejected the decision of the House of Representatives and maintained that Dbeibé will remain in office to implement its new ‘road map’ for holding elections. Dbeibé was elected as prime minister by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) in February 2021, replacing the hitherto unity prime minister, Fayez Serraj.