Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility yesterday experienced a problem involving its electrical distribution grid just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich uranium, state TV reported.
It was the latest incident to strike one of Tehran’s most secure sites amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers.
State TV quoted Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi announcing the incident.
“Kamalvandi said fortunately the incident has not caused any human damage or contamination,” a state TV anchorwoman said. “The cause of the incident is under investigation.”
The word state television used in its report attributed to Kamalvandi in Farsi also can be used for “accident.”
The organization, the civilian arm of its nuclear program, later published a statement using the same wording as the TV report, without elaborating.
Natanz was affected by a mysterious explosion in July last year that authorities later described as sabotage. Israel, Iran’s regional archenemy, has been suspected of carrying out an attack there, as well as launching other assaults, as world powers negotiate with Tehran in Vienna over a nuclear deal.
Iran also blamed Israel for the killing of a scientist who began the country’s military nuclear program decades earlier.
Israel has not claimed any of the attacks, although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly described Iran as the major threat faced by his country in the past few weeks. Israeli officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Iran announced it had launched a chain of 164 IR-6 centrifuges at the plant, injecting them with the uranium gas and beginning their rapid spinning.
Officials also began testing the IR-9 centrifuge, which they say can enrich uranium 50 times faster than Iran’s first-generation centrifuges, the IR-1.
A 2015 nuclear deal limited Iran to using only IR-1s for enrichment.
Since former US president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018, Tehran has abandoned all limits of its uranium stockpile.
Iran says that its atomic program is for peaceful purposes, but fears about Tehran having the ability to make a bomb saw world powers reach a deal with the country.
The agreement lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for it limiting its program and allowing inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to keep a close watch on its work.
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