Iran suspicious incidents
July 6, 2020 - Iranian officials have sought to downplay recent high profile incidents at facilities linked to Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes, raising suspicions that they may have been the result of sabotage.
Iran on Sunday confirmed that an explosion and fire at a building at the underground Natanz uranium enrichment site was a new centrifuge assembly centre, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Some Iranian officials have blamed possible cyber-sabotage.
Centrifuges are needed to produce enriched uranium to make reactor fuel as well as bomb-grade fuel.
The July 2 blast caused “significant damage” and destroyed several “measuring devices and advanced tools,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), told IRNA. Work has already started on reconstructing the building with “more advanced equipment and a bigger site,” Kamalvandi said.
Under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the Islamic Republic is only allowed to enrich uranium with just over 5,000 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuges. These would take around 12 months to enrich natural uranium and produce enough weapons-grade uranium -- some 27kg -- for a single weapon.
In 2018, Iran showed off IR-2, IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges at the Natanz site, in what was seen as a warning to Europe to stick to the nuclear accord after the withdrawal by U.S. President Donald Trump.
In November 2019, the AEOI released photographs showing new IR-6 centrifuges at Natanz. Iran announced that it had started gas injection into a 30-machine cascade of IR-6 centrifuges which can enrich uranium ten times faster than the 1970s-era IR-1s.
In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli cyber-weapon, was used to attack Natanz and disrupt thousands of IR-1 centrifuges.
The latest incident at Natanz came the same week as three other explosions, including one at the Khojir missile propellant plant near the Parchin military base, another at the Shiraz missile site, and a blast at a medical clinic in northern Tehran which killed 19 people.
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