On Wednesday, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that 10 barrels containing 2.5 tons of uranium ore had gone missing from an undisclosed site in southern Libya during a scheduled inspection.
In a statement, the IAEA said that “agency safeguards 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 declared at a location in the state of Libya. Further activities will be conducted by the agency to clarify the circumstances of the removal of the nuclear material and its current location.”
— Alwasat Libya (@alwasatengnews) March 16, 2023
The uranium is likely in an unrefined ore powder form known as “yellow cake” or “urania,” which has low levels of radiation, but still hazardous if inhaled. Yellow cake can be enriched to make reactor fuel, as well as weapons grade uranium.
Forces of the Libyan National Army, an umbrella organization of various militia and mercenary groups led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, announced that the barrels had been located near the Libyan border with Chad only a few miles from the site. The LNA also accused Chadian rebel forces of stealing the barrels, thinking they were filled with ammunition, however, no evidence was provided.
It seems that the #yellowcake #uranium at the #Sebha storage facility was poorly guarded. Here are some photos from an incident in June 2020 when, according to locals, several barrels were stolen and found dumped at a Sebha landfill. #Libya pic.twitter.com/3K8YGMWerY
— Aris Dimitrakopoulos (@ArisDimitrako) March 16, 2023
The IAEA acknowledged the reports and said it would work to verify them.