BEIRUT (AP) – A German company has found dangerous nuclear material stored at an oil facility in southern Lebanon, officials said Friday.
The material has been stored at the Zahrani oil facility, which is located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Beirut, according to a statement released after a meeting of the Higher Defense Council of Lebanon, the main military and defense body. country security. In its statement, the council quoted outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
Lebanese authorities have been searching for hazardous material across the country after a deadly explosion in Beirut last year. The August 4 explosion of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrates, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged several Beirut neighborhoods.
During Friday’s meeting, Diab told other officials that the material found by the German company Combi Lift, which Lebanon had tasked with disposing of hazardous material at the Beirut port, “is a high-purity nuclear substance” and its Presence poses dangers.
“This matter must be discussed now and swift action must be taken to address it with great concern,” Diab said in the statement. He spoke after meeting with the heads of all the country’s military and intelligence agencies, as well as with President Michel Aoun and the defense and interior ministers.
In November, Lebanon signed an agreement with Combi Lift to treat and ship overseas containers consisting of flammable chemicals found in the remains of the Beirut port. Combi Lift completed the treatment of 52 containers of “dangerous and hazardous chemical material” and was ready to ship them out of the country, the German ambassador to Lebanon said last month.
The deal between Lebanon and Combi Lift is worth $ 3.6 million, for which the port authorities in Lebanon paid $ 2 million, with the German government covering the rest.
The head of the Zahrani facility, Ziad el-Zein, told Al-Jadeed local television that Combi Lift inspected the facility and found eight small containers weighing less than 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) containing depleted uranium salts. .
El-Zein added that the material has been stored at the facility since the 1950s, when it was run by the Mediterranean Refinery Company, or Medreco. Medreco was an American company whose main shareholders were Mobil and Caltex and was active in Lebanon for four decades until the late 1980s.
Malte Steinhoff, a spokesperson for Combi Lift in Germany, declined to give specific details about the nuclear material or the chemical shipment.
Combi Lift, Steinhoff said in an email to The Associated Press, is currently in talks with the Lebanese government.
“This refers to possible salvage projects at the Tripoli and Zahrani refineries,” Steinhoff added. “There are no concrete results yet. We do not want to comment on any findings. “
A document from the Zahrani oil facility that was released by local media on Friday said that the monitoring committee for the “chemical material” decided to transfer it to the laboratories of the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission.
The March 22 document warned that the Lebanese atomic commission will inform the International Atomic Energy Agency that it cannot store the material in Lebanon according to international standards.
Associated Press journalist David Rising contributed to this report from Berlin.