Iranian media reported an electrical problem at the Natanz, the country’s main uranium enrichment facility.
Natanz: new centrifuges in contravention of deal
“The incident caused no casualties or contamination,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said, adding that “electricity was affected at the Natanz facility”.
The incident comes one day after President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated a chain of 164 advanced 164 IR-6 uranium enrichment centrifuges at the site in a televised event commemorating Iran’s National Day of Nuclear Technology. The event also featured the initiation of two test cascades, 30 each, of IR-5 and IR-6S models. Officials also began testing the IR-9 centrifuge, which they say will enrich uranium 50 times faster than the IR-1, Iran’s first-generation centrifuges.
Though the announcement specified the incident was an “accident”, Malek Shariati Niasar, a spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s energy committee, wrote on Twitter that the incident was “very suspicious,” raising concerns about possible “sabotage and infiltration.”
Natanz nuclear facility is generally recognized as Iran’s central facility for uranium enrichment with over 19,000 gas centrifuges currently operational and nearly half of them being fed with uranium hexafluoride. Between 2007–2010 Natanz nuclear power plant was hit by a sophisticated cyberattack that was carried out by German, French, British, American, Dutch and Israeli intelligence organizations. The attack used a Stuxnet worm which hampered the operation of the plant’s centrifuges and caused damage to them over time.
Natanz: target of attacks
The site is being rebuilt inside a mountain after it suffered an explosion at its advanced centrifuge assembly plant in July. Iranian authorities later claimed the explosion was sabotage carried out by Israel.
One week earlier, a large explosion was reported in the Parchin military base that was associated with nuclear weapons. It was later revealed that the explosion was the result of a cyberattack, possibly carried out by Israel.
At about the same time as the explosion at the Parchin facility, a large explosion at the local power station left half of the city of Tehran without electricity.
In November, Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, was shot dead in Tehran.
Biden renewing Iran deal
The Biden administration is currently involved in attempts to jumpstart the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) know as the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018, reinstating sanctions against Iran. The JCPOA limited Iran to the IR-1 centrifuges and to test a limited number of IR-4 and IR-5 devices. To reach a level considered weapons-grade, the purity level would need to be around 80-90%. Since January, Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20% purity has grown to 55 kilograms. Only about 15 kilograms of enriched uranium is required to construct an operational nuclear bomb.
The Iranian government denies it is pursuing nuclear weapons and says its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, wrote a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Friday claiming that Iran is testing nuclear-capable missiles in contravention of the JCPOA.