1214 GMT June 23, 2021
Iran’s nuclear chief on Sunday slammed “an act of terrorism “against the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said “the desperate act” against the Natanz facility was aimed at sabotaging “successful talks” Iran held in Vienna last week with the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal to get US sanctions removed, IRNA reported.
AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said Sunday that a problem with the electrical distribution grid at the uranium enrichment plant in Natanz caused an incident at the site.
No one was injured and there was no radioactive release by the power failure, Kamalvandi told national TV.
He said there had been “an incident in part of the electrical circuit of the enrichment facility” at the Natanz complex in central Iran, but that there were “neither casualties nor contamination”.
“The causes of the incident are under investigation and more details will be released later,” the spokesman added.
Kamalvandi noted that there was “no further information at the moment”.
Malek Shariati, the spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s Energy Committee, took to Twitter to call the incident sabotage.
“Coming [a day after] National Nuclear Technology Day as Iran endeavors to press the West into lifting sanctions, this incident is strongly suspected to be sabotage or infiltration,” Shariati said.
The incident came a day after Iran started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges at the site, AFP reported.
President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday ordered the injection of uranium gas into 164 IR-6 centrifuges, 30 IR-5 centrifuges, and mechanical tests on IR-9 machines, with the capacity of 50 early IR-1 machines at Natanz, in a ceremony broadcast by national television.
The Natanz facility, which is located in the desert in Isfahan Province, is monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
A spokesman for the UN nuclear watchdog told Reuters by email: “We are aware of the media reports. We have no comment at this stage.”
In July last year, a fire broke out at the Natanz facility’s’ centrifuge assembly plant, which authorities later described an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran now is rebuilding that plant deep inside a nearby mountain.
In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack Natanz.
Multiple Israeli media outlets reported Sunday that a cyberattack caused the blackout at Natanz, AP reported.
Public broadcaster Kan said Israel was likely behind the attack, citing Israel’s responsibility for the Stuxnet attack. Channel 12 TV cited “experts” as estimating the attack shut down entire sections of the facility.
None of the reports included sources or explanations on how the outlets came to that assessment.