Today, Sunday, the authorities in Iran announced an accident that affected the electricity distribution network in one of the sections of the Natanz nuclear facility.
A spokesman for the Iranian Nuclear Energy Organization, Behrouz Kamalondi, said that investigations are underway to find out the causes of the partial defect in the electricity network that occurred at dawn today in this underground facility in Isfahan, 400 kilometres south of the capital, Tehran, adding that the results will be announced later.
While the Iranian spokesman confirmed that there were power outages in parts of the complex, Iranian TV quoted officials that the accident did not affect the electrical distribution network of the facility, which is one of several nuclear facilities in Iran.
Commenting on what happened, the spokesman for the Energy Committee in the Iranian Parliament, MP Malik Shariati, indicated in a tweet on Twitter that there is a strong suspicion that the accident was the result of “an act of sabotage and infiltration,” according to what was reported by the Associated Press.
In turn, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program, said it was aware of the incident in Natanz, but declined to comment.
Its second attack on Natanz nuclear facility
Al-Jazeera correspondent in Tehran, Noureddin Al-Dagheer, said that information about the second accident in the facility in less than a year is still scarce.
However, he indicated that what happened may not be beyond two possibilities, either the defect in the electrical network is the result of a technical failure in the generator, or the result of an external factor represented in a cyberattack, indicating that Iran is in a cyber confrontation with Israel and the United States.
Yesterday, Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated a new centrifuge assembly plant in Natanz, and at the same time ordered the operation or testing of 3 new sets of these devices that allow for faster uranium enrichment.
Previous accidents at Natanz nuclear facility
The Natanz facility, the largest of its kind in the country, is located 260 kilometres from the city of Kashan in the Iranian province of Isfahan, and the facility has been subjected to a number of attacks and accidents in the past years.
The facility specialized in enriching uranium using centrifuges includes about 50,000 advanced gas transport tubes, which allow the production of quantities of uranium.
In 2010, the Natanz facility and other Iranian nuclear facilities were attacked by “Stuxnet” cyberattacks, which caused disruption of computers in Natanz.
In July 2020, the facility was exposed to a fire in the part that is above ground, which was severely damaged.
Weeks later, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran confirmed that the accident was the result of an act of sabotage.
The timing of the accident
The new accident in Natanz nuclear facility comes a day after the operation of new advanced centrifuges, which are prohibited under the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers, and after the announcement of Tehran’s stockpile of enriched uranium by 20% to 55 kilograms.
It also comes amid a diplomatic move to revive the nuclear deal from which the administration of former US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.
In addition to Natanz, incidents have previously been recorded at sensitive Iranian facilities.
And last November, the prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in Tehran, reported by NY Times, in a process that the Iranian authorities described as complex, and accused Israel of being behind it.