An act of terrorism sparked an incident at the Natanz underground nuclear power plant on Sunday, Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said without giving further details.
“While condemning this despicable decision, Iran stresses the need for the international community to face this nuclear terrorism,” Salehi said, adding that Tehran has the right to take action against the perpetrators.
Earlier on Sunday, the spokesman for the country’s Atomic Energy Organization said a problem with the electricity distribution network had caused the plant to malfunction, but ruled out the existence of victims and the risk of contamination.
The episode comes a day after Tehran inaugurated new advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges at the site.
The facility, located in the desert of Isfahan province, is the centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program and is monitored by inspectors from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) , a body linked to the UN (United Nations).
While overseeing the inauguration of the centrifuges on Saturday (10), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reiterated the country’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.
Kan, an Israeli public radio station, cited unidentified intelligence sources as saying that the Israeli spy agency Mossad carried out a cyberattack on the Natanz facility.
Last year Tehran accused Israel of being responsible for the murder of the country’s top nuclear scientist, killed in an ambush – and the country has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility.
Asked about the incident, an IAEA spokesperson said by email that the agency was “aware of media reports” but would not comment at this time.
In July last year, the Natanz facility suffered a fire, which the government said was an attempt to sabotage the country’s nuclear program.
Tehran and Washington are now in the process of trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal – last week, representatives of the two countries began indirect negotiations mediated by the Europeans in Vienna.
Representatives from the UK, China, France, Germany and Russia were present (the other current members of the agreement) and the chief coordinator of the European Union.
Without face-to-face negotiations – Iran has refused to meet directly with the United States – Europeans work in a kind of intermediary diplomacy, moving between the delegations of the two countries.
At the groundbreaking ceremony for the new centrifuges, the Iranian president reiterated that the country’s nuclear industry has peaceful goals.
“Once again, I stress that all of our nuclear activities are peaceful and for non-military purposes,” Rouhani said. “We remain committed to our promise regarding the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”
The talks in Vienna are aimed at restoring the central points of the deal – restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of US sanctions.
Officially, both Iran and the United States insist they want to return to the deal, but disagree on who should take the first step. Therefore, the ongoing negotiations also aim to create a roadmap for a synchronized return to respect for the pact.
Even if there is an agreement, the verification may still take some time due to technical complications and lack of confidence on both sides.