On Thursday, more than two tons of radioactive uranium that had previously thought to have been missing was discovered in a Libyan warehouse, easing concerns about the possible nuclear threat of the missing materials.
As the New York Post reports, Khaled Mahjoub, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA), released the statement revealing that the uranium was discovered in southern Libya, contained in at least 10 barrels; video taken from the recovery shows workers counting up to 18 barrels.
Just days earlier, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had told member states that inspectors had failed to locate 2.5 tons of uranium in the country, which is still ravaged by war over 10 years after the fall of the nation’s leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The IAEA further noted that the facility in which the materials were discovered is located in an area of the country not under the control of the Government of National Unity in Tripoli, and thus would require the use of “complex logistics” to get to it. Mahjoub’s statement placed the warehouse near the border with Chad, last visited by the IAEA in 2020.
The barrels were found roughly 3 miles from the warehouse, with Mahjoub speculating that they had been stolen by separatist fighters from Chad who thought they might contain weapons or ammunition, but subsequently abandoned them upon discovering their true contents.
Had the uranium fallen into the hands of a group or individual with sufficient knowledge and equipment, the material could be refined into weapons-grade uranium, with each unrefined ton equating to about 12 pounds of weapons-grade material.
Libya remains ravaged by a civil war, with the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli led by Mohamed al-Menfi, Chairman of the Presidential Council of the State of Libya, fighting with the LNA, which is led by warlord Khalifa Haftar. A ceasefire was declared in 2020, but with no resolution to the conflict in sight.