Iran reported an accident caused by a “power failure” Sunday at its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, with one lawmaker blaming the outage on an act of “sabotage”.
No-one was injured and there was no radioactive release, the official Fars news agency reported, citing the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).
The incident came a day after the Islamic republic said it had started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges at the site, in a breach of its commitments under a troubled 2015 deal with world powers.
AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said there had been “an accident in part of the electrical circuit of the enrichment facility” at the Natanz complex near Tehran, but that there were “no casualties nor pollution”.
“The causes of the accident are under investigation and more details will be released later,” he added.
He did not say whether power was cut only in the enrichment facility or across other installations at the site and added that there was “no further information for the moment”.
But Malek Chariati, spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s energy commission, took to Twitter to allege sabotage.
“This incident, coming (the day after) National Nuclear Technology Day as Iran endeavours to press the West into lifting sanctions, is strongly suspected to be sabotage or infiltration,” Chariati said.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had on Saturday inaugurated a cascade of centrifuges for enriching uranium and two test cascades at Natanz, in a ceremony broadcast by state television.
An Israeli public broadcast journalist, Amichai Stein, said on Twitter “the assessment is that the fault” at Natanz is the “result of an Israeli cyber operation,” without elaborating or providing evidence to corroborate his claim.
– ‘Terrorist sabotage’ –
Iran’s president had on Saturday also inaugurated a replacement factory at Natanz, after an explosion at a facility making advanced centrifuges there last July.
Iranian authorities blamed the July incident on “sabotage” by “terrorists”, but have not released the results of their investigation into it.
The equipment inaugurated Saturday enables quicker enrichment of uranium and in higher quantities, to levels that violate Iran’s commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal it agreed with the five permanent UN Security Council powers, plus Germany.
The administration of then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from this multilateral nuclear accord in 2018 and re-imposed biting sanctions on Iran.
Iran later responded by progressively rolling back its own commitments under the agreement.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden has said he is prepared to return to the deal, arguing it had — until Washington’s withdrawal — been successful in dramatically scaling back Iran’s nuclear activities.
Iran’s latest move to step up uranium enrichment follows an opening round of talks in Vienna Tuesday with representatives of the remaining parties to the nuclear deal on bringing the US back into it.
The Vienna talks are focused not only on lifting the crippling economic sanctions Trump reimposed, but also on bringing Iran back into compliance.
Iran’s nemesis Israel has always been implacably opposed to the 2015 accord.
In November last year, Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed by machine gun fire while travelling on a highway outside Tehran.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said a satellite-controlled gun with “artificial intelligence” was used in the attack, which Tehran blamed on Israel.