The Israeli public radio station Kan quoted unnamed intelligence sources as claiming that Israel’s Mossad security service carried out a cyber attack on the site.
Earlier on Sunday, the spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) reported that an incident occurred due to a conflict with the Natanz site’s electrical distribution system, according to Iranian reports.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman, confirmed that there were no injuries or contamination as a result of the incident. Later, Iranian media reported that Kamalvandi was in an accident while visiting the Natanz site, in which he “suffered a broken head and leg.” The findings did not go into detail on what caused the crash.
The facility, located in the desert in the central province of Isfahan, is the centrepiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme and is monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
“While condemning this despicable move, Iran emphasizes the need for the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency to deal with this nuclear terrorism and reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators,” Salehi said. He did not elaborate.
Israel, which has accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons that could be used against it, made no official comment on the incident. It took place a day after Tehran, which has denied it seeks atomic arms, started new advanced enrichment centrifuges at Natanz.
Asked about what had occurred, an IAEA spokesman said by email, “We are aware of the media reports. We have no comment at this stage.”
Kan Radio, citing the intelligence sources, said the damage at Natanz was more extensive than had been reported in Iran.
At a ceremony on Sunday with Israeli military and intelligence chiefs marking the 73rd anniversary next week of Israel’s founding, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no direct reference to Natanz.
But he said: “The fight against Iran’s nuclearisation … is a massive task.”
Tehran says its nuclear programme is purely for peaceful purposes.
FIRE AND VIRUS
In July last year, a fire broke out at the facility, which Iran said was an attempt to sabotage the country’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 the Natanz facility comes despite attempts by Tehran and Washington to resurrect Iran’s 2015 nuclear pact with major powers, which was scrapped three years earlier by former US President Donald Trump. Trump reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic that had been suspended as part of the agreement, as well as imposing a slew of new ones.
The White House and State Department in Washington had no comment on the attack’s reports.
In response to US sanctions, Iran has increasingly violated many of the accord’s provisions. During indirect talks in Vienna last week, the two countries set out tough positions on how to get them back into full compliance with the agreement.
“The action taken against the Natanz site shows the failure of the opposition to Iran’s industrial and political progress to prevent the significant development of Iran’s nuclear industry,” Salehi said.
“To thwart the goals of those who commanded this terrorist act … Iran will continue to improve its nuclear technology on the one hand and to lift oppressive U.S. sanctions on the other hand,” he said.
Iran also blamed Israel for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom Western intelligence agencies suspected of being the mastermind of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons programme.
Israel has not acknowledged or disputed responsibility for the murder.
On Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed Iran’s contribution to nuclear non-proliferation while overseeing the start-up of advanced centrifuges at the Natanz plant to commemorate the country’s National Nuclear Technology Day.