A fire at Iran's underground Natanz nuclear facility led to significant damage to a new centrifuge assembly center. There were no casualties.
Iran has confirmed that a fire at its underground Natanz nuclear facility has caused significant damage to a new centrifuge assembly center. The incident took place on Thursday, according to the official IRNA news agency.
"The incident could slow down the development and production of advanced centrifuges in the medium term ... Iran will replace the damaged building with a bigger one that has more advanced equipment," the spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said on Sunday.
"The incident has caused significant damage but there were no casualties."
Soon after the fire broke out, Iranian officials downplayed the incident, claiming that it only affected an "industrial shed". It has now been confirmed that it damaged the centrifuge assembly center, which was inaugurated in 2018.
Some fear that enemy nations like the United States and Israel may be behind the fire, but no evidence or confirmation has been issued. In the past, the Stuxnet computer virus was used to attack Natanz. It was widely believed that the US and Israel had developed the virus.
Mostly underground, the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) is the country's main uranium enrichment site. It is also one of the many facilities in Iran that are monitored by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and western intelligence agencies believed that Natanz also was at the center of a clandestine nuclear arms program until 2003. However, Iran has denied pursuing nuclear weapons.
Tehran curbed its nuclear ambitions after reaching a deal with six other countries in 2015. Significant international sanctions on the country were lifted under the agreement.
US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018, reimposing strict sanctions on the already-flailing economy. This has led to Iran reducing its commitments as well.
Underground "missile cities"
In a separate incident, the Iranian military on Sunday said that so-called "missile cities" have been built at underground sites along the Gulf coastline.
"Iran has established underground onshore and offshore missile cities all along the coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman that would be a nightmare for Iran's enemies," Rear Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri told the Sobh-e Sadeq weekly.
The country's military leaders have often been quoted boosting Tehran's military prowess. However, such developments have not been verified globally.
see/aw (Reuters, AP, dpa)