Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph:
(by Katherine Griffiths, Telegraph.co.uk) – Nuclear experts claim that Libya is sitting on a stockpile of almost 200 barrels of uranium despite agreeing in 2003 to dismantle its nuclear programme, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
The revelation that Libya allegedly has not yet complied with the international agreement to get rid of its supply of uranium will be a particular blow to the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, after his recent move to deepen ties with the regime of Col Muammar Gaddafi.
It will also be an embarrassment to France’s first lady, Cecilia Sarkozy, who travelled to Libya last month to help negotiate the release of the six Bulgarian and Palestinian medics accused of infecting children with HIV.
advertisementWithin days of that visit, France signed a memorandum of understanding with Libya involving the possible construction of a nuclear reactor for civilian purposes.
The uranium, in the form of 1,000 tons of yellow cake ore, is said to be being stored at a military base at the desert town of Sabha. Nuclear experts with knowledge of the stockpile estimate its value at about £200 million.
Uranium is used to power nuclear power stations, but it can also be enriched to make nuclear weapons.
The Sabha base was linked with Libya’s nuclear weapons programme in a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2004. The base, some of which is believed to be underground, was also alleged to have been a chemical weapons facility.
After Col Gaddafi officially abandoned Libya’s nuclear weapons programme in December 2003 in return for the lifting of US and European sanctions, the IAEA was supposed to oversee the country’s disposal of its uranium.
A source close to the situation said: “Gaddafi has gone through the pro forma process with the IAEA but he has delayed and delayed. He appears to want to use uranium as a bargaining chip to get a reactor.”
However, there is a view among nuclear experts that Col Gaddafi is very unlikely to be allowed to have a nuclear reactor, even if it is used for civilian purposes, due to fears Libya could use the technology to restart its military nuclear programme.
The US, UK and other members of the IAEA, the world’s nuclear watchdog, do not believe Libya should be given nuclear know-how, sources said, and are likely to block France’s attempt to strike a deal with Col Gaddafi.
Questions might also be asked about how Libya would be able to have possessed the uranium in the first place. Industry insiders believe it was mined in Niger and could have been acquired by Libya during the period of sanctions.
If France were to strike a deal with Libya over nuclear energy, the work would almost certainly be carried out by Areva, the largest nuclear company in the world.
A spokesman for Areva said discussions between France and Libya were “more political and not at this time commercial”. However, he added that some talks between Areva and the Libyan government had taken place.
The UK’s official position on whether Libya should be able to build civil nuclear reactors is not clear.
Business people operating in the nuclear world are increasingly dealing with companies and authorities once firmly on the blacklist of places where nuclear technology should not be allowed.
This follows a tacit agreement among Western governments that nuclear expertise should be shared as one of the ways to bring down carbon emissions from other fuels.
However, there is still a firm view that certain countries must still be barred from joining the nuclear club.
Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Telegraph. Visit the website at telegraph.co.uk.
1. a) In what year did Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi agree to dismantle his nuclear weapons program? (please note: there are several accepted ways to spell “Qadhafi”)
b) Why did he do so?
2. a) Who is now saying that Qadhafi has not dismantled his weapons program?
b) What is believed to be Qadhafi’s motive for keeping the uranium?
3. For what two purposes is uranium used?
4. a) What is the IAEA?
b) Why will members of the IAEA likely block France’s attempt to make a deal with Qadhafi?
5. Should Libya be permitted to build civil nuclear reactors to be used for energy purposes? Explain your answer.
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