IAEA reports 2.5 tons of uranium are missing in Libya, LNA reports finding it near Chadian border

Mar 15, 2023 | Libyan actors

On 15 March, it was announced in multiple major Western newspapers and media outlets, including the BBC, The Telegraph, Guardian, Vox, and Reuters, that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors had discovered that roughly 2.5 tons of unprocessed (or yellowcake) uranium was no longer present at a storage site in Southern Libya. The finding emerged as the result of a postponed routine IAEA inspection which was originally planned for 2022 but ‘had to be postponed because of the security situation in the region’ and the ‘lack of government control over the area’. When they did visit last week, IAEA inspectors ‘found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of UOC (uranium ore concentrate) previously declared by (Libya) … as being stored at that location were [no longer present] at the location’. On 16 March, Khaled Mahjoub, a media officer for the Libyan National Army (LNA), announced on his Facebook page that several drums of uranium had been found near the country’s border with Chad, posting a video seeming to show the presence of the uranium drums. In the accompanying Facebook post, Mahjoub claimed that a ‘Chadian faction must have stolen them and then abandoned them not understanding their value’. He blamed the IAEA for not supplying the LNA appointed guards with the necessary protective equipment which the LNA requested in 2020 – claiming that it employs exclusively ‘female guards’ harassat and that due to radioactivity’s ability to make women infertile, the LNA would require the highest level protective gear or they wouldn’t be able to secure the site. Mahjoub also claimed that due to the UN embargo it was impossible for the LNA to access the necessary radiologically protective suits on its own and as such needed to guard the uranium from a great distance and hence couldn’t prevent the initial theft. Furthermore, he asserted that the barrels had already been found by the time the IAEA announced it publicly, implying that the IAEA made such an announcement primarily to discredit the LNA rather than to call attention to the lost uranium.