Nearly 2.5 tonnes of natural uranium has gone missing from a site in war-torn Libya, UN nuclear watchdogs have revealed, raising safety and security fears.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement that its Director-General, Raffaele Mariano Grossi, informed member states about the missing uranium on Wednesday.
The statement said that during an inspection carried out on Tuesday, “agency security inspectors found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of uranium ore concentrate were not present, as previously announced at a location in the Libyan state.” it was done.”
The Vienna-based agency said it was carrying out “further activities” to “clarify the circumstances of the removal of the nuclear material and its current location”.
Natural uranium cannot be used immediately for energy production or bomb fuel, but – if obtained by a group with the technical means and resources – it can be refined into weapons-grade material over time. And there may also be a radiological risk in the event. Long-term exposure, experts say.
Finding the missing uranium is a priority.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Defense Forces of the United Kingdom and NATO, said, “The loss of so much uranium oxide, commonly known as yellowcake, is a major concern, although it is highly radioactive.” Not there.” ,
De Bretton-Gordon told NBC News that the uranium “is likely to be in powder form,” and would need to be handled by people wearing hazmat suits and respirators.
“Eventually this uranium could be enriched for nuclear power purposes to about 20% or nuclear weapons grade to about 90%, but this is not a trivial process and would require a highly advanced processing system to do so,” They said. “However, we know that Iran and North Korea are working hard on this.”
“It is not an ideal material for a dirty bomb,” de Botton-Gordon said, referring to bombs enriched with radioactive material, “but it can be used to spread low-level pollution over a wide area. Know both Russia and ISIS.” Recently discussed dirty bombs.”
Russia claimed last year that Ukraine was planning to deploy a so-called dirty bomb, but offered no evidence. There is also the possibility of such equipment being deployed by extremist groups.
De Bretton-Gordon said that with sophisticated security and policing, it was unlikely that nuclear material would be used for “nefarious reasons”.
Reuters first reported the IAEA’s warning about missing Libyan uranium.
Libya abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003 under then-leader Muammar Gaddafi, having obtained centrifuges that could enrich uranium as well as design information for a nuclear bomb, although it did not produce the bomb itself. And made very little progress.
There has been little peace in Libya since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted it.
Since 2014, political control has been split between rival eastern and western factions, with the conflict’s last major bout in 2020.
Through a UN-backed peace plan in early 2021, Libya’s interim government was supposed to last only until elections in December of that year, which have not yet taken place, and its legitimacy is still disputed.
reuters And associated Press Contribution,