UN watchdog says tonnes of uranium missing from Libyan site

Thursday March 16 2023
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi speaks during a press conference. He announced on March 15, 2023 that 2.5 tonnes of natural uranium were found missing from a Libyan site. PHOTO | SAUL LOEB | AFP


“Roughly 2.5 tonnes of natural uranium have gone missing from a Libyan site that is not under government control,” United Nations (UN) nuclear watchdog told its member states in a statement on Wednesday.

According to a statement released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Chief Rafael Grossi, the finding resulted from an inspection carried out on Tuesday which was originally planned for last year but had to be postponed because of insecurity in the Sahara region.

Read: UN warns of clashes in Libya

IAEA inspectors found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tonnes of natural uranium in form of UOC (Uranium Ore Concentrate) previously affirmed by Libya were not available.

The agency said they would carry out further investigation to determine reasons for the uranium's removal from the site.

"Unawareness about the present location of the nuclear material presents a radiological as well as nuclear security risk," IAEA said, adding that reaching the site had required "complex logistics".


In 2003, Libya under former leader Muammar Gaddafi renounced its nuclear weapons programme which had obtained centrifuges that could enrich uranium as well as design information for a nuclear bomb.


The late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. FILE | NMG

Libya has been less peaceful since a 2011 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato)-backed uprising ousted Gaddafi.

Since 2014, political control over Libya has been split between the country’s eastern and western rivalling factions, with the last major bout of conflict ending in 2020.

An interim Libyan government put in early 2021 through a UN-backed peace plan, was supposed to last until an election slated for December of that same year. However, the election has still not been held, and now, the government’s legitimacy is being disputed.