That form of uranium “poses little radiation hazard, but it requires safe handling,” the IAEA said. “The loss of knowledge about the present location of nuclear material may present a radiological risk, as well as nuclear security concerns.”
The agency added that it would carry out “further activities” to “clarify the circumstances of the removal of the nuclear material and its current location.”
IAEA Director Rafael Mariano Grossi informed member states of the development on Wednesday, according to the statement, which did not specify the name or location of the site. However, Reuters, which first reported the news, said Grossi told member states that an inspection at the same site due last year was postponed due to security concerns.
His statement added that travel to the site, which is not controlled by the Libyan government, required “complex logistics,” according to Reuters.
While natural uranium cannot immediately be used for nuclear energy or weapons, with the right knowledge and resources each ton can be refined to 5.6 kilograms (12 pounds) of weapons-grade material over time, according to the Associated Press.
In 2003, Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi announced he would surrender his weapons of mass destruction and halt his nuclear development program. However, diplomats and weapons experts said that access to the country’s laboratories and storage depots showed that the ambitious weapons program was not close to producing nuclear warheads, The Washington Post reported in 2004.
This isn’t the first case of missing radioactive items: In February, officials in Western Australia recovered a tiny but dangerous radioactive capsule after an urgent search lasting almost a week. More recently, the Texas Department of State Health Services said an industrial camera containing radioactive material had gone missing — but it noted that the material is sealed and said the risk of exposure is “very low.”
Libya has been rocked by instability since a 2011 uprising and subsequent NATO intervention led to Gaddafi’s overthrow and killing by rebels. The country has been split since 2014, with competing administrations in the east and west supported by various international backers.
An internationally brokered cease-fire in 2020 led to the creation of a transitional government under Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in the capital, Tripoli, and raised hopes of a more lasting peace.
But when the elections promised under the agreement were postponed the following year, a rival prime minister was appointed in the east, allied to forces known as the Libyan National Army. Talks between the two sides have since collapsed, with intermittent clashes in 2022.
In addition, fighters from the Islamic State group have taken advantage of the power vacuum to take root in the desert in far southern Libya, according to Bloomberg.
*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.