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Libya: More than two tonnes of natural uranium missing, warns nuclear watchdog

Delayed investigation from International Atomic Energy Agency warns of 'radiological risk' from missing material
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), speaks to journalists after the IAEA's Board of Governors' meeting at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria on March 6, 2023 (AFP)
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi speaks to journalists in Vienna, Austria on 6 March 2023 (AFP)

Around 2.5 tonnes of natural uranium has gone missing from a site in Libya, the international nuclear watchdog warned on Wednesday.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported earlier this week that they had discovered 10 drums containing uranium ore concentrate "were not present as previously declared" at a location in Libya.

In a statement seen by Reuters, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told the organisation's member states that they would continue investigations "to clarify the circumstances of the removal of the nuclear material and its current location".

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Although natural uranium cannot immediately be used for either energy or military purposes, it can be refined into weapons-grade material over time with the proper expertise and technology.

Grossi warned that the "loss of knowledge about the present location of nuclear material may present a radiological risk, as well as nuclear security concerns".

He added that reaching the site, which he did not identify, required "complex logistics".

The IAEA investigation had originally been planned for 2022 but had been delayed as a result of the security situation in Libya, which has been in a state of unrest since longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011.

Under pressure from the international community, Gaddafi renounced his country's nuclear weapons programme in 2003.

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