(dpa) – A disruption at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran was a “terrorist act,” charged the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) on Sunday.
“We condemn this terrorist act in Natanz, an attempt by the enemies of Iran to stop its nuclear advances,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the AEOI, of the incident, which struck the installation overnight into Sunday.
Salehi also said that part of the plan was to disrupt new talks in Vienna designed to find a way to lift international sanctions placed on Iran because of its efforts to implement a nuclear programme.
However, many details of the overnight incident remain unclear and probes are under way to determine what precisely happened and who might have caused the disruption.
Speaking on TV, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesperson for the Iranian atomic commission, said the disruption originated at a workshop outside of the main facility. He said there were no deaths and operations never ceased.
Officials had already said there were no leaks of atomic material.
In Israel, there was speculation in the Jerusalem Post that there might have been an explosion due to an Israeli cyberattack.
It would not be too surprising had there been some kind of attack on the plant. Israel views the Iranian nuclear programme as an existential threat. Iran’s rulers have routinely made clear they view Israel as an enemy. If they developed the capability to launch nuclear weapons, they would be able to hit any part of Israel.
There was already one unexplained blast at Natanz last year, with suspicion falling on Israel. The US and Israel also launched the Stuxnet virus in 2010 in an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear programme.
Despite the threats, newly produced Iranian centrifuges were recently installed at Natanz, which allow uranium enrichment of up to 20 per cent.
Iran’s nuclear programme is the subject of heated international debate. Few believe claims that it only seeks a civilian nuclear programme.
A deal was reached in 2015 that would have theoretically prevented a nuclear weapons programme in Iran, but that has largely fallen apart after previous US president Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal and resumed sanctions on Iran. Efforts are under way to see if the deal can be resuscitated, now that Trump is out of office.