Dirty bomb components up for grabs in Libya

A former UN weapons inspector is warning that Libyan rebels must move to secure large quantities of radioactive waste and uranium fuel left over from Gaddafi’s abandoned nuclear program.

The program was aborted in 2003, after a rapprochement initiative with the West prompted Gaddafi to halt efforts to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Libya’s uranium enrichment program was subsequently dismantled, while sensitive material – including nuclear weapons designs, centrifuge components and highly-enrinched uranium – was removed by inspectors. 

However, Olli Heinonen, former head of nuclear safeguards inspections worldwide for the IAEA  (which reports to the UN), believes “nuclear security concerns still linger.”

According to Heinonen, large quantities of radioisotopes, radioactive waste and low-enriched uranium fuel remain in the Libyan city of Tajoura.

“While we can be thankful that the highly enriched uranium stocks are no longer in Libya, the remaining material in Tajoura could, if it ended up in the wrong hands, be used as ingredients for dirty bombs,” Heinonen explained in a statement quoted by Reuters.

“[Unfortunately], the situation at Tajoura today is unclear. [Once a transition of power takes place], Libya should assure the world that it accepts its responsibility and will take the necessary steps to secure these potentially dangerous radioactive sources.”