A fire after an apparent explosion damaged a building on Thursday morning at one of Iran’s main nuclear facilities, the third prominent industrial incident in the country in recent days according to reports.
The most recent explosion occurred at site, the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, that has previously been the target of cyberattacks and where enrichment activity has been ramped up in the past year.
Iranian officials downplayed the event, the BBC’s Farsi service said it received an email before the news of the fire was made public from a purported dissident group taking credit for what it said was an attack.
Today however, a Kuwaiti newspaper has cited unnamed senior source as saying Israel was behind recent incidents in Iran, following an alleged attempt by Tehran to hack Israel’s water infrastructure.
The newspaper also reported that last Friday Israeli F-35 stealth fighter jets bombed a site located in the area of Parchin. Neither of these claims were confirmed by Israeli officials.
The alleged strikes said to have all but depleted Iran’s stock of key gas needed for uranium enrichment, and are expected to set back Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme by approximately two months.
US satellite data showed an explosion or fire large enough to be detected from space breaking out at a building above the underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in central Isfahan province just after 2am.
The Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) said damage was sustained to an “industrial shed” that was under construction, with no casualties or release of radiation. The Natanz governor, Ramazanali Ferdowsi, was quoted by the state-linked Tasnim news agency as blaming a fire.
Last week’s blast took place in Iran’s Parchin military complex. Both attacks were supposedly aimed at Iran’s stock of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) gas – a key component of uranium enrichment process for both reactor fuel and weapons.
The Natanz site is among the sites monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with the US and other countries.