| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

Zahrani substances handed over to Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission

ZAHRANI, Lebanon: Chemical material detected in the southern Lebanese town of Zahrani was officially handed over on Monday to the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission, to be used for research and scientific purposes, said Ziad El Zein, director general of the Zahrani oil facilities.

Last week, German company Combi Lift reported having found dangerous chemicals at the Zahrani oil installations, and a follow up detection by Lebanon’s nuclear energy authority also concluded that the substances were “dangerous and nuclear,” caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab reported.

Nonetheless, more extensive research revealed on Monday that the chemicals posed no threat, according to Dr. Omar Al-Samad, a representative of the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission.

“The Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission came to take the materials that were unknown, and after taking samples and analyzing them in our labs, it found that they were radioactive and non-dangerous materials,” Al-Samad said.

The chemicals were labelled as Acetate Uranyl and Uranium, manufactured by the companies Hopkin and Williams, and M&B Laboratory. Al-Samad said these materials weighted 1,400 grams.

Zein also said that the case file on the substances was now closed, adding that the chemicals entered Lebanon between 1950 and 1960, when U.S. companies were operating the refinery.

In a statement, Zein explained why this issue was currently being raised.

“The issue is being brought up in 2021 because when a memorandum was issued by the premier after the port explosion, it was circulated to all establishments, institutions and public administrations to count which materials in their possession could potentially pose a danger. Any material in the facilities that raises any question marks is being addressed in one way or another, and what happened today is confirmation that this issue has taken on more than its volume in the media.”

The handover process is said to have been conducted under tight security measures, and was attended by Zein, Al-Samad, the Southern Coastal branch of the Internal Security Forces, members of the Lebanese Army’s intelligence branch, the Regional Directorate of State Security, and representatives from national laboratories. The handover receipt was signed Monday morning, and copies were immediately handed out to local media outlets.

Zein thanked all those involved in resolving the case, in particular the “fruitful contact” between the Energy and Water Ministry, the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission and the National Council for Scientific Research.

He also pointed out that contacts with these institutions preceded any media campaigns or decisions made regarding the substances, and underlined that the documented correspondence between all parties demanded the transfer of these materials to the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission.