DUBAI (Reuters) – A fire at Iran’s Natanz underground nuclear facility has caused significant damage that could delay the development of advanced centrifuges used to enrich uranium, an Iranian nuclear official said Sunday.
FILE PHOTO: A view of a damaged building after a fire at Iran’s Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan, Iran, July 2, 2020. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization / WANA (West Asia News Agency) a via REUTERS
Iran’s top security body said Friday that the cause of the fire that erupted on Thursday had been determined but would be announced later. Some Iranian officials have said it could have been cyber sabotage, and one warned that Tehran would retaliate against any country that carried out such attacks.
On Thursday, an article by Iran’s state news agency IRNA addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage of enemies like Israel and the United States, although it did not directly charge them.
Israel’s defense minister said Sunday that he was not “necessarily” behind every mysterious incident in Iran.
Three Iranian officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity on Friday said they believed the fire was the result of a cyber attack, but did not cite any evidence.
“The incident could delay the development and production of advanced centrifuges in the medium term … Iran will replace the damaged building with a larger one with more advanced equipment,” said the spokeswoman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, the state agency. of IRNA news. Behrouz Kamalvandi, as saying.
“The incident has caused significant damage, but there were no victims.”
Separately on Sunday, the powerful head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy said Tehran had built underground “missile cities” along the Gulf coast and warned of a “nightmare for Iran’s enemies.”
The Iranian authorities have said that such sites exist in all of Iran’s provinces, but so far they have revealed only three bases and have not disclosed that they have been built along its coast.
Natanz is the centerpiece of Iran’s enrichment program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes. Western intelligence agencies and the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) believe it had a coordinated and clandestine nuclear weapons program that it stopped in 2003. Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Iran agreed to halt its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of most international sanctions in an agreement reached between Tehran and six world powers in 2015.
But Iran has gradually reduced its commitments to the agreement since the administration of United States President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed and intensified sanctions that have hit Iran’s economy.
The deal only allows Iran to enrich uranium at its Natanz facility with just over 5,000 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, but Iran has installed new advanced centrifuge cascades.
Iran, which says it will not negotiate as long as the sanctions remain in place, has repeatedly promised to continue building what it calls a missile defense capability led by the Revolutionary Guards, defying Western criticism.
Israel has backed Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy on Tehran with the aim of forcing him to agree to a new deal that puts stricter limits on his nuclear work, curbs his ballistic missile program and ends his regional power wars.
In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack Natanz.
Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), Iran’s main uranium enrichment site, which is mainly underground, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the agency for UN nuclear control.
The IAEA said on Friday that the location of the fire contained no nuclear material and that none of its inspectors was present at the time.
Written by Parisa Hafezi, Edited by Michael Georgy and David Clarke