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Viewing cable 09TRIPOLI938, LIBYA HALTS HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM FUEL TRANSFER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TRIPOLI938 2009-11-25 13:01 2010-12-04 01:01 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Tripoli
VZCZCXRO8570
OO RUEHBZ RUEHDBU RUEHDU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHMR RUEHNP RUEHPA
RUEHRN RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHTRO #0938/01 3291359
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 251359Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5503
INFO RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW IMMEDIATE 0095
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA IMMEDIATE 0080
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0249
RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 6053
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TRIPOLI 000938

NOFORN
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/FO AND NEA/MAG. STATE PLEASE PASS TO ENERGY (ANDREW BIENIAWSKI AND KELLY CUMMINS).

E.O. 12958: DECL:  11/25/2019
TAGS: PREL PINS MNUC PARM PINR RS KGIC KNNP KRAD ENRG
LY
SUBJECT: LIBYA HALTS HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM FUEL TRANSFER

REF: Tripoli 870

TRIPOLI 00000938  001.2 OF 003

CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli,
Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (S/NF) Summary:  Following a four-day standoff, the Russian
plane scheduled to remove Libya's last remaining HEU spent fuel
stores departed Libya without its cargo.  Despite bilateral
agreements with the U.S. and Russia -- and intensive outreach
efforts by the U.S. and Russian Ambassadors -- Libyan officials
unexpectedly refused to allow the HEU to leave the country.  DOE
experts are deeply concerned by the safety and security risks
posed by the Libyans' decision.  The seven five-ton casks, each
closed with two IAEA seals, remain at the lightly-guarded
Tajoura Nuclear Facility.  DOE experts requested that the GOL
disengage the loading crane and provide extra armed guards, but
are not confident that the GOL will take the requisite security
measures.  The DOE experts will brief the IAEA of their
concerns, and said the IAEA could provide additional seals
appropriate for long-term storage and cameras.

2. (S/NF) Summary continued: According to the DOE experts, we
have one month to resolve the situation before the safety and
security concerns become a crisis.  They believe Russia could
provide another plane to remove the HEU in late December, at
which point the casks must be moved to their next location.  If
the HEU is not removed from the casks within three months, its
rising temperature could cause the casks to crack and to release
radioactive nuclear material.  If the HEU is not sent to Russia,
the Russians would be required to develop entirely new
technology to remove the spent fuel from the casks in Libya.
Security concerns alone dictate that we must employ all of our
resources to find a timely solution to this problem, and to keep
any mention of it out of the press. End summary.

GOL UNEXPECTEDLY HALTS HEU FUEL SHIPMENT

3. (S/NF) On November 20 the GOL unexpectedly ordered a team of
visiting Department of Energy and Russian (from Rostom Kirienko)
officials to halt preparations of Libya's 5.2 kilograms of
highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel to ship to Russia for
treatment and disposal, in spite of the government-to-government
agreement signed by Libya and the United States on October 28
and a parallel agreement with the Russian government (reftel).
XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX  The plane, a Russian Antonov 124-100, was scheduled
to arrive on November 21, with loading to take place during the
night of November 21, for shipment on November 22.  Although the
Russian crew already had official Libyan permission to land on
November 21, XXXXXXXXXXXX told the DOE and Russian teams, via his
staff, that the Libyan government did not approve the landing
and asked that the plane be delayed.  The teams delayed arrival
of the plane until November 23.  After several days on the
ground without a change in the GOL's position, the Russian plane
and team from Rostom Kirienko departed early in the morning of
November 25 without the shipment.

4. (S/NF) Since November 20, the Ambassador and emboffs have
engaged Foreign Ministry officials, the National Security
Advisor's (NSA) office, the PM's office, Saif al-Islam
al-Qadhafi's staff, and Muammar al-Qadhafi's staff, seeking an
explanation and reversal of the GOL's last-minute decision to
halt the shipment.  Foreign Ministry and NSA officials pledged
to communicate the problems to Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and
National Security Advisor, Mutassim al-Qadhafi, respectively.
The Ambassador has also maintained close communication with the
Russian Ambassador on the situation.  One official insisted to
the Ambassador that the Foreign Ministry had done everything "by
the book" to prepare for the fuel transfer to move forward on
November 21 and could not imagine what could have gone wrong.
XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX he did not know what was holding up the program.

SECURITY CONCERNS

TRIPOLI 00000938  002.2 OF 003

5. (S/NF) On November 25, the DOE team briefed the Ambassador
and emboffs on their concerns about the security of the HEU in
its present state and next steps.  The 5.2 kilograms of HEU are
stored in seven five-ton casks, which the DOE experts said are
"highly transportable."  The casks currently are at the
lightly-guarded Tajoura Nuclear Facility, closed with two IAEA
seals that are adequate only for transportation, not storage.
The team asked the Director of the Tajoura facility to disengage
the site's loading crane, in order to prevent an intruder from
using it to move the casks.  They also asked that extra human
security be added onsite, stating that the last time they were
at Tajoura, on November 24,  they only saw one security guard
with a gun (although they did not know if it was loaded).  The
team plans to brief the IAEA about the situation and to express
concern about the security of the fuel. They said it was
possible that the IAEA would provide additional seals and/or
cameras to increase the casks' security.

6. (S/NF) According to the DOE experts, we have approximately
one month to resolve the situation, before the safety and
security concerns posed by the delayed shipment reach the level
of a crisis.  The casks in which the Libyan HEU is stored must
be moved to their next location at the end of December.  The DOE
experts believe that the Russians could provide another plane to
transport that shipment during that timeframe.  However, if the
Libyans refuse to allow the shipment to go forward, the Russian
experts would be required to design new technology to remove the
spent fuel from the casks and put it back into the ponds at
Tajoura.  DOE experts stressed that this would be an
unprecedented operation.  They also stated that the spent fuel
must be either shipped to Russia or removed from the casks in
the next three months.  At that point, the temperature of the
HEU fuel, which is radioactive, could reach such a level to
cause cracking on the casks and release of radioactive nuclear
material.  The team stated that their Russian counterparts are
deeply concerned about liability if the radioactive material
leaks from the transportation casks.

NEXT STEPS

7. (S/NF) If the Libyans can be persuaded to allow the transfer
to proceed, the DOE team will work with Russian counterparts to
schedule another visit by the Russian plane for transportation
of the fuel, which the team estimated could take up to a month
(that will require the reissuance of overflight and entry
permits for Turkey, Greece, and Libya, as well as cancellation
of other transport contracts that the plane already has
scheduled).  Absent Libya's agreement to allow the shipment to
move forward, the DOE and Russian team will resort to designing
and manufacturing the technology that would be necessary to
unload the fuel casks remotely at the Tajoura facility.

COMMENT

8. (S/NF) Security concerns dictate that we must deploy all of
our resources to find a solution to this problem.  The
Ambassador continues to seek an urgent meeting with the Libyan
Foreign Minister and other senior officials to press for a
resolution and to obtain information about what instigated the
Libyan decision to halt progress on the fuel shipment.  The
Russian Ambassador has also been trying to meet with any of
several high-level officials, but has been ignored.  The
situation has been complicated by a state visit by the Turkish
PM as well as other visits, and the onset of the Eid al-Adha
holiday, which began here today and extends for four days.  The
Russians did manage to convey a letter from Vice FM Sultanov on
November 24, urging the GOL to let the shipment take place.  If
further efforts fail over the next few days, it may be necessary
to consider a senior-level official call to Muammar al-Qadhafi
to stress the urgency of the situation and the high degree of
concern about the possibility of Libya's backtracking on its
nuclear nonproliferation commitments.  Lacking any other
information, we have to assume that the Libyan leader is the
source of the problem at this point

9. (S/NF) Security concerns also dictate that we handle this
issue with the utmost discretion.  Given the highly
transportable nature of the HEU and the shoddy security at

TRIPOLI 00000938  003.2 OF 003

Tajoura, any mention of this issue in the press could pose
serious security concerns.  We strongly urge that any press
inquiries be addressed with a no comment -- or a more general
reply along the lines of:  The U.S. and the international
community continue to work with the Government of Libya to
address its WMD commitments.  End comment.
CRETZ