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Libya lost, then found, 2.5 tonnes of uranium – a red flag for nuclear safety

The Conversation Olamide Samuel.Track II Diplomat and Expert in Nuclear Politics, University of Leicester 1 May 23

Earlier this year the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi reported that about 2.5 tonnes of uranium ore concentrate had gone missing from a site in Libya. This was arguably one of the largest quantity of uranium ore concentrate that had ever been misplaced.

Barely a day after the IAEA’s announcement, General Khaled Mahjoub of the self-styled Libyan National Army said the uranium ore had been found about 5km from the warehouse where it had been stored. A week later, the IAEA, which had been monitoring the stockpile occasionally, confirmed that most of the uranium ore concentrate had been found.

Uranium ore concentrate, popularly known as ‘yellowcake’, is a type of uranium concentrate powder obtained after uranium ore has been milled and chemically processed. Yellowcake has very low radioactivity, equivalent to the radioactivity of uranium ore found in nature, and it is produced by all countries where uranium ore is mined.

Yellow cake is further processed to become enriched uranium, which is used to manufacture the fuel for nuclear reactors. However, enriched uranium can also be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. If the technology were available, the 2.5 tons of missing yellowcake would have been half the amount required for a nuclear bomb.

Nuclear material experts had said the Libyan uranium ore concentrate in case posed “no significant security risk” as it required prohibitively sophisticated processing capabilities before it can be suitable for civil or weapons use.

Nevertheless, the news of missing Libyan uranium ore concentrate did highlight serious problems with the national and global governance structures for managing uranium.

Based on my experience in nuclear non-proliferation and politics, I believe that the missing Libyan uranium debacle illustrates two things.

Firstly, it illustrates the dangers of a IAEA that doesn’t have enough resources to monitor uranium ore stockpiles, especially in countries with unstable regimes. And faced with more pressing issues such as the safety and security of nuclear power plants in Ukraine, the IAEA won’t prioritise yellowcake storage.

Secondly, many African countries still struggle to implement nuclear safety and security governance provisions.

A regional destabiliser

Libya has been unstable since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. This plunged the country into a civil war that has destabilised the North African and the Sahel regions, as Libya lost control of the largest and most diverse military arsenals in the region.

Much of this arsenal eventually fell into the hands of various non-state actors. Among them were Boko-Haram which mounted a reign of terror in northern Nigeria, and Ansar Al-Sharia in Tunisia.

Gaddafi had amassed stockpiles of nuclear material and technology as he sought to develop nuclear weapons. He had help from Abdul Qadeer Khan, who had been identified as a key facilitator for the global smuggling of nuclear material and technology.

Gaddafi eventually abandoned the weapons program in 2003, after months of secret disarmament negotiations with the US and British.

Following this deal, the US airlifted about 25 metric tonnes of Libya’s nuclear weapon programme components and documents. The last of Libya’s enriched uranium was removed in 2009. But there remained in Sabha, the southern Libyan city, about 6400 barrels of uranium ore concentrate. It’s this material that was under the control of an army battalion.

Olli Heinonen, a former Deputy Director of the IAEA, has since explained that it would have been very costly to airlift the remaining concentrate. He also said there were incentives for Libyans to holding onto the concentrate until the spot price of uranium was high enough for profitable export.

More questions than answers

Though the missing 2.5 tonnes of uranium have been recovered, questions remain: Why did 2.5 tonnes go missing in the first place? Who would have wanted to acquire it?

…………………………….. more


May 3, 2023 Posted by | Libya, safety | Leave a comment

Libyan general says uranium reported missing by UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has been recovered

 ABC News 16 Mar 2023

Several containers of natural uranium reported missing by the UN’s nuclear watchdog in war-torn Libya are found, according to a general with one of the country’s two rival governments.

Key points:

  • The IAEA reported the 10 drums of uranium ore concentrate missing in Libya on Wednesday
  • It says reaching the site — that is not under government control — required “complex logistics”
  • Estimates put Libyan stockpiles of yellowcake uranium at some 1,000 metric tonnes under the regime of the late dictator, Moamar Gaddafi

General Khaled al-Mahjoub — commander of eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar’s communications division — said on his Facebook page that the containers of uranium had been recovered “barely 5 kilometres” from where they had been stored at Sabha, some 660km south-east of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, in the country’s lawless southern reaches of the Sahara Desert…………………………………………………………… more

March 17, 2023 Posted by | Libya, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Alarm over 10 drums of uranium missing in Libya

 Approximately 2.3 tonnes of natural uranium have gone missing from a site
in Libya not under government control, according to the United Nation’s
nuclear watchdog. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has
told the organisation’s member states that 10 drums containing uranium
“were not present as previously declared” at the location in Libya.

The missing uranium stockpile could pose radiological risk and security
concerns, the agency has said. The IAEA sounded the alarm after a visit by
its inspectors to the undisclosed site earlier this week, where it found
less uranium than originally reported. Currently, officials are working to
locate the 2.3 missing tonnes.

 Engineering & Technology 16th March 2023

March 17, 2023 Posted by | Libya, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Uranium | Leave a comment

For the first time, drones autonomously attacked humans

For the First Time, Drones Autonomously Attacked Humans. This Is a Turning Point. Drone experts have long dreaded this moment.

Popular Mechanics, BY KYLE MIZOKAMIJUN 1, 2021  

  • Libyan forces reportedly used Kargu-2 drones to autonomously seek out and attack human targets.
  • This is the first recorded case of using a self-hunting drone against people.
  • Drone experts say this extremely dangerous development could be dangerous to people far beyond the traditional battlefield.

The world’s first recorded case of an autonomous drone attacking humans took place in March 2020, according to a United Nations (UN) security report detailing the ongoing Second Libyan Civil War. Libyan forces used the Turkish-made drones to “hunt down” and jam retreating enemy forces, preventing them from using their own drones.

The field report (via New Scientist) describes how the Haftar Affiliated Forces (HAF), loyal to Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, came under attack by drones from the rival Government of National Accord (GNA) forces. After a successful drive against HAF forces, the GNA launched drone attacks to press its advantage. From the report:

Logistics convoys and retreating HAF were subsequently hunted down and remotely engaged by the unmanned combat aerial vehicles or the lethal autonomous weapons systems such as the STM Kargu-2 (above) and other loitering munitions. The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true “fire, forget and find” capability.

The report says Turkey supplied the drones to Libyan forces, which is a violation of a UN arms embargo slapped on combatants in the conflict.

…….. Drone experts have been dreading this moment while advocating for a ban on autonomous attack drones.

June 19, 2021 Posted by | Libya, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Why North Korea wants nuclear weapons – the lesson from Libya

Libya: The Forgotten Reason North Korea Desperately Wants Nuclear Weapons,

Ted Galen Carpenter, The United States and its allies continue to cajole and threaten North Korea to negotiate an agreement that would relinquish its growing nuclear and ballistic-missile programs. The latest verbal prodding came from President Trump during his joint press conference with South Korean president Moon Jae-in. Trumpurged Pyongyang to “come to the negotiating table,” and asserted that it “makes sense for North Korea to do the right thing.” The “right thing” Trump and his predecessors have always maintained, is for North Korea to become nonnuclear.
It is unlikely that the DPRK will ever return to nuclear virginity. Pyongyang has multiple reasons for retaining its nukes. For a country with an economy roughly the size of Paraguay’s, a bizarre political system that has no external appeal, and an increasingly antiquated conventional military force, a nuclear-weapons capability is the sole factor that provides prestige and a seat at the table of international affairs. There is one other crucial reason for the DPRK’s truculence, though. North Korean leaders simply do not trust the United States to honor any agreement that might be reached.

Unfortunately, there are ample reasons for such distrust. North Korean leaders have witnessed how the United States treats nonnuclear adversaries such asSerbia and Iraq. But it was the U.S.-led intervention in Libya in 2011 that underscored to Pyongyang why achieving and retaining a nuclear-weapons capability might be the only reliable way to prevent a regime-change war directed against the DPRK.

Partially in response to Washington’s war that ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003, ostensibly because of a threat posed by Baghdad’s “weapons of mass destruction,” Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi seemed to capitulate regarding such matters. He signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in December of that year and agreed to abandon his country’s embryonic nuclear program. In exchange, the United States and its allies lifted economic sanctions and pledged that they no longer sought to isolate Libya. Qaddafi was welcomed back into the international community once he relinquished his nuclear ambitions.

That reconciliation lasted less than a decade. When one of the periodic domestic revolts against Qaddafi’s rule erupted again in 2011, Washington and its NATO partners argued that a humanitarian catastrophe was imminent (despite meager evidence of that scenario), and initiated a military intervention. It soon became apparent that the official justification to protect innocent civilians was a cynical pretext, and that another regime-change war was underway. The Western powers launched devastating air strikes and cruise-missile attacks against Libyan government forces. NATO also armed rebel units and assisted the insurgency in other ways.

Although all previous revolts had fizzled, extensive Western military involvement produced a very different result this time. The insurgents not only overthrew Qaddafi, they captured, tortured and executed him in an especially grisly fashion. Washington’s response was astonishingly flippant. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quipped: “We came, we saw, he died.”

The behavior of Washington and its allies in Libya certainly did not give any incentive to North Korea or other would-be nuclear powers to abandon such ambitions in exchange for U.S. paper promises for normal relations. Indeed, North Korea promptly cited the Libya episode as a reason why it needed a deterrent capability—a point that Pyongyang has reiterated several times in the years since Muammar el-Qaddafi ouster. There is little doubt that the West’s betrayal of Qaddafi has made an agreement with the DPRK to denuclearize even less attainable than it might have been otherwise. Even some U.S. officials concede that the Libya episode convinced North Korean leaders that nuclear weapons were necessary for regime survival.

The foundation for successful diplomacy is a country’s reputation for credibility and reliability. U.S. leaders fret that autocratic regimes—such as those in Iran and North Korea—might well violate agreements they sign. There are legitimate reasons for wariness, although in Iran’s case, the government appears to becomplying with its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that Tehran signed with the United States and other major powers in 2015—despite allegations from U.S. hawks about violations.

When it comes to problems with credibility, though, U.S. leaders also need to look in the mirror. Washington’s conduct in Libya was a case of brazen duplicity. It is hardly a surprise if North Korea (or other countries) now regard the United States as an untrustworthy negotiating partner. Because of Pyongyang’s other reasons for wanting a nuclear capability, a denuclearization accord was always a long shot. But U.S. actions in Libya reduced prospects to the vanishing point. American leaders have only themselves to blame for that situation.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author or coauthor of ten books, including The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea. He also is the author of more than seven hundred articles and policy studies on international affairs.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | Libya, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Birth deformities, cancers, in Libya as result of depleted uranium weapons


In Libya now being recorded by the WHO (world health organization), the highest deformation in fetuses inside Libya and reached 23% of newborns and also the high incidence of new forms of cancer that were not known among ordinary Libyans and now amounting to 18% of the total of cancers that have been diagnosed by the organization’s branch in Libya .

Despite this serious health disaster countries involved with NATO are now demanding that Libya pay them one billion seven hundred million dollars for their help in toppling the Gaddafi regime.

NATO War Crimes In Libya: Deformities of Newborns Because of Depleted Uranium Bombs Libyans knew that depleted uranium was being used by NATO in their bombing raids and they were very concerned.

There is no doubt that NATO/US broke every agreement imposed by the Geneva Convention.

War crimes against humanity in Libya by NATO and its member countries is unmatched in the world. Continue reading

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Libya, Reference, Uranium | 2 Comments

Libya’s uranium stockpile a cause of anxiety

Concerns Grow Over Libyan Uranium Stockpiles, VOA, Jamie Dettmar, 10 Dec 13, December 10, 2013 WASHINGTON — Inspectors from the United Nations nuclear agency will soon begin an assessment of the adequacy of security arrangements for thousands of barrels of yellowcake uranium stockpiled in Libya. The inspection comes amid rising anxiety among Western powers and Libya’s neighbors at the lawlessness disrupting the transition from dictatorship to democracy since the ouster two years ago of Moammar Gadhafi.

 A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, will arrive in the troubled North African country later this month to “verify existing stockpiles and conditions of storage,” the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative to Libya, Tarek Mitri, told the Security Council on Monday.

According to Mr. Mitri, 6,400 barrels of yellowcake uranium are stored in a facility near Sabha, a desert town in the south that has witnessed episodic clashes between Tubu and Abu Seif tribesmen. Libyan intelligence officials say Al Qaida-linked Tuareg fighters fleeing the French intervention in Mali have moved into Libya’s south to set up camps.

The barrels of uranium are under control of a Libyan army battalion, Mitri told the 15-nation UN Security Council. In a closed-door meeting Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alexander Pankin warned of the dangers of the Libyan uranium and also of weapons going astray and falling into the hands of terrorists.   ………

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Libya, safety, Uranium | Leave a comment

Russia raises awareness of Libya’s unguarded yellowcake uranium

Russia implores UN to take control of Libya’s ‘unguarded’ yellowcake uranium,   November 05, 2013  Russia has asked the UN Security Council to look into the dangers posed by a badly-guarded stockpile of yellowcake uranium in the Libyan Desert. Recent reports have said that Al-Qaeda is interested in the supply as a potential nuclear weapon component. Continue reading

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Libya, safety | Leave a comment

Libya’s 6,400 Barrels of Uranium controlled by militias

Libya Wondering What to do with 6,400 Barrels of Uranium Stored in City Controlled by Militias Front Page mag, September 26, 2013 By   At the UN, Obama asked whether it would have really been better to leave Gaddafi in charge of Libya. Can we get a final answer on that after we decide what to do about those 6,400 barrels of uranium?

The country was reportedly holding 6,400 barrels of the “yellowcake” uranium at a warehouse in Sabha.

Foreign Minister Muhammad Abdul Aziz said his country “is trying to determine if the concentrated uranium can be used for peaceful nuclear energy purposes or sold to countries which use the product for peaceful purposes.”

An independent think tank in Tripoli, though, has reportedly advised the government to use the material in its nascent nuclear-power program, as well as for “industrial and agricultural development.”

How secure is the city of Sabha? As secure as any place in Libya. Which is to say… not at all….

September 28, 2013 Posted by | Libya, safety, Uranium | Leave a comment

United Nations concerned about Libya’s unsafe uranium stores

UN watchdog worries about Kadhafi uranium in Libya Google News, (AFP)  23 Dec 11 UNITED NATIONS — The UN atomic watchdog has told Libya to urgently find a home for yellow cake uranium from the Moamer Kadhafi era left in thousands of deteriorating barrels, a UN envoy said Thursday.
Kadhafi renounced efforts to make weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs, in 2003, but a major storage base with the raw uranium was found in the uprising which led to his death in October.
An International Atomic Energy Agency team completed a visit to the Tajoura nuclear complex in Tripoli and the Sabha uranium storage base, in the desert of southern Libya, on December 9, UN envoy to Libya, Ian Martin, told the UN Security Council….

December 23, 2011 Posted by | Libya, safety | Leave a comment

Unguarded uranium – yellowcake for the taking, in Libya

post-Gaddafi Libya affords little or no protection to this vast haul of material which, if refined, is the essential element of a nuclear bomb.

‘Uranium’ stockpile uncovered in Libya
, SMH, Richard Spencer, September 27, 2011 SABHA:
International atomic agencies and Libya’s rebels say it will take weeks to safeguard at least 10,000 abandoned drums thought to contain uranium. Continue reading

September 27, 2011 Posted by | Libya, safety, Uranium | Leave a comment

Libya lied about nuclear weapons – documents reveal

MI6 caught Libyans lying about nuclear weapons, documents reveal MI6 caught the Libyans lying about their stock of nuclear weapons after uncovering a secret network of arms supplies from Pakistan, documents found in Tripoli reveal.Telegraph, By , and Richard Spencer 05 Sep 2011…

September 6, 2011 Posted by | Libya, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA declares that Gaddafi’s nuclear materials are secure

U.S.: Gadhafi Chemical, Nuclear Materials Secure, ABC News 25 Aug 11,  — American officials said today that Moammar Gadhafi’s stock of chemical and nuclear materials are secure, amid fears they could fall into the wrong hands as the longtime leader’s regime falls.

“Our judgment is that they remain secure,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters. “We have no reason to believe that there is anything else of that nature anywhere else.”……

The State Department has already spent $3 million on contracts to help destroy weapons and mines inside parts of Libya that have been taken over by rebel forces. Gadhafi had promised in 2003 to dismantle its nuclear program as part of an agreement that eventually led the U.S. to take Libya off the list of states that sponsor terrorism in 2006.

After the agreement, the U.S. sent millions in aid to the Gadhafi regime “focused on bolstering Libya’s commitments to renouncing weapons of mass destruction,” according to State Department records….

August 26, 2011 Posted by | Libya, safety | Leave a comment

Risk of radioactive “dirty bomb” in Libya

Former UN nuclear expert warns of ‘dirty bomb’ Research centre has large quantities of radioisotopes and radioactive waste even after programme was abandoned, Gulf News, Reuters, August 25, 2011,Vienna: A research centre near Tripoli has stocks of nuclear material that could be used to make a “dirty bomb”, a former senior UN inspector said yesterday, warning of possible looting during turmoil in Libya.

Seeking to mend ties with the West, Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi agreed in 2003 to abandon efforts to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons — a move that brought him in from the cold and helped end decades of Libyan isolation.

A six-month popular insurgency has now forced Gaddafi to abandon his stronghold in the Libyan capital but continued gunfire suggests the resistance fighters have not completely triumphed yet.

Olli Heinonen, head of UN nuclear safeguards inspections worldwide until last year, pointed to substantial looting that took place at Iraq’s Tuwaitha atomic research facility near Baghdad after Saddam Hussain was toppled in 2003.

In Iraq, “most likely due to pure luck, the story did not end in a radiological disaster,” Heinonen said. In Libya, “nuclear security concerns still linger,” the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in an online commentary.


August 25, 2011 Posted by | Libya, safety | Leave a comment

Targeted killing of investigative journalists in Libya

Order: Kill non-mainstream reporters in Libya, What U.S. is hiding, , Human Rights Examiner, August 22, 2011,  Targeted Killings of non-mainstream reporters in Libya ordered: Attempts to bury truth

The Examiner learned in communications from human rights defenders and independent journalists throughout Monday that they were shaken with news of 1300 Libyans killed and 5000 wounded Saturday, plus, the U.S. allegedly ordered Targeted Killings of Voltaire Network reporters, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya and Thierry Meyssan, non-mainstream reporters in Libya covering the NATO war, while other independent reporters there are being fired upon and one, Mohammed Nabbous was killed Saturday according to ABC News.  In an interview with journalist Don DeBar on KPFA radio, he reported most mainstream “news” about Libya has been untrue, as alternative news sites heavily report but are increasingly persecuted according to their recent reports.

Continue reading on Order: Kill non-mainstream reporters in Libya, What U.S. is hiding – National Human Rights |

August 25, 2011 Posted by | Libya, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment