UN nuclear watchdog says 2.5 tonnes of uranium missing from Libyan site

A Libyan flag flies in the city of Misrata.

A Libyan flag flies in the city of Misrata. Islam Alatrash/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

At least 2.5 tons of natural uranium have disappeared from an uncontrolled site in Libya, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The news was revealed to Reuters in a statement from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog group. The IAEA told the outlet that “10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium previously declared by [Libya] …as being stored there were not present there.”

While the exact site of the storage facility is unclear, the IAEA said it originally planned to inspect the area last year, but had to postpone that review “due to the security situation. In the region”. The inspection was finally carried out on Tuesday, when it was discovered that the uranium was missing.

The IAEA will “conduct” further activities “to determine the circumstances of the removal of the uranium from the site, which it did not name, and where it is now,” he said. Reuters. The agency added that the potential disappearance of nuclear material “could present a radiological hazard, as well as nuclear security concerns.”

The IAEA confirmed that the site was not under the control of the Libyan government. The mystery has emerged as Libya continues to rebuild its society after a bloody civil war ended in 2020. As the country has tried to enact reforms to push itself towards a democracy, Libya remains rocked by instability policy.

Reuters noted that “political control has been shared between rival eastern and western factions” since 2014, with no calm even after the end of the conflict. The United Nations installed an interim government of national unity (GNU) in 2021, which was designed to hold Libya to a new round of democratic elections. However, amid warlike rivalries, these elections continue to be delayed.

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