Exclusive-IAEA confirms almost all missing uranium in Libya now accounted for

By Francois Murphy

VIENNA (Reuters) – Most of the roughly 2.5 tons of natural uranium ore concentrate (UOC) recently declared missing from a site in Libya have been found at that site, the U.N. nuclear watchdog told member states on Friday in a statement seen by Reuters.

The International Atomic Energy Agency informed member states in a similar confidential statement on March 15 first reported by Reuters that 10 drums containing the UOC had gone missing from a Libyan site not under government control.

While the amount of fissile material is less than that required for a nuclear bomb, and would need to go through processes known as conversion and enrichment to be usable in one, the IAEA said at the time that losing it “may present a radiological risk, as well as nuclear security concerns”.

Following eastern Libyan forces’ statement last week that they had found the drums of UOC near the warehouse they were taken from in southern Libya, the IAEA carried out an inspection on Tuesday and found that only “a relatively small amount of UOC was still unaccounted for,” Friday’s IAEA statement said.

“During the (inspection), Agency inspectors observed that drums that had not been present at the declared location at the time of the previous (inspection) had since been brought back and left in close proximity to the declared location,” it said.

“Agency inspectors confirmed that these drums contained UOC and witnessed their transfer back to within the declared location for storage,” the statement added.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)