Iran reports electrical incident at Natanz nuclear site, no casualties

An electrical power problem causes incident at Natanz site

  

DUBAI- A problem with the electrical distribution grid of Iran's Natanz nuclear facility caused an incident at the site on Sunday, Iranian Press TV reported, a day after Tehran launched new advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges at the site.

The Natanz facility, which is located in the desert in the central province of Isfahan, is the centrepiece of Iran's uranium enrichment programme and monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"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 cause was being investigated, Kamalvandi told Iran's semi-official Fars news agency, but Iranian lawmaker Malek Shariati-Niasar said in a tweet: "This incident ... is strongly suspected to be sabotage or infiltration."

Iran has blamed Israel for last year’s killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was seen by Western intelligence services as the mastermind of a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

Tehran has denied seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the killing.

A spokesman for the U.N. nuclear watchdog said by email : "We are aware of the media reports. We have no comment at this stage."

In July last year, a fire broke out at the Natanz facility, which the government said was an attempt to sabotage Iran's nuclear programme. In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack Natanz.

The incident at Natanz facility comes amid efforts by Tehran and Washington to revive Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers after former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned it three years ago. Trump reimposed sanctions that had been lifted on the Islamic Republic, and brought in many more.

In reaction to the U.S. sanctions, Iran has gradually breached many restrictions imposed by the accord. The two nations laid out tough stances at indirect talks in Vienna last week on how to bring both back into full compliance with the accord. 

President Hassan Rouhani reiterated Iran's commitment to nuclear non-proliferation on Saturday while overseeing the launch of advanced centrifuges at the Natanz plant to mark the country's National Nuclear Technology Day. 

(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Susan Fenton, Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean) ((parisa.hafezi@thomsonreuters.com; +971 56 216 8363; Reuters Messaging: parisa.hafezi@thomsonreuters.com; Twitter: @PHREUTERS))

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