Electrical problem strikes Iran's Natanz nuclear facility
Tehran, Iran (AP) - Iran's Natanz nuclear site had a problem with its electricity distribution network on Sunday, just hours after new advanced centrifuges started to enrich uranium faster, state television reported. It was the most recent incident where one of Tehran's safest locations was hit in negotiations over the broken nuclear deal with world powers.
State television quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran's civilian nuclear program, and announced the incident.
"Fortunately, Kamalvandi said the incident caused no human harm or contamination," said a state TV host. "The cause of the incident is being investigated."
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The word state television used in his report attributed to Kamalvandi in Farsi can also be used for "accident".
The Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, the civilian arm of its nuclear program, later issued a statement that used the same wording as the television report without going into detail.
Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion in July that authorities later referred to as sabotage. Israel, the regional arch enemy of Iran, has been suspected of having carried out an attack and launched other attacks as the world powers are now negotiating its nuclear deal with Tehran in Vienna.
Iran also accused Israel of killing a scientist who started the country's military nuclear program decades earlier. Israel has not alleged any of the attacks, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly cited Iran as the greatest threat to his country in recent weeks. Israeli officials could not be reached immediately for comment on Sunday.
On Saturday, Iran announced that it had started up a chain of 164 IR-6 centrifuges at the facility into which the uranium gas had been injected and the rapid spinning started. Officials also began testing the IR-9 centrifuge, which is designed to enrich uranium 50 times faster than Iran's first-generation centrifuge, the IR-1. The nuclear deal restricted Iran to only using IR-1 for enrichment.
Since then President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran has given up all limits on its uranium supplies. It now enriches the purity by up to 20%, a technical step away from a weapons content of 90%. Iran is maintaining its nuclear program for peaceful purposes, but fears that Tehran might build a bomb led world powers to sign the deal with the Islamic Republic in 2015.
The deal lifted economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for restricting its program and allowing inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to closely monitor its work.
On Tuesday, an Iranian cargo ship intended to serve as a floating base for Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guards off the coast of Yemen was hit by an explosion, likely from a limpets mine. Iran blamed Israel for the explosion. This attack escalated a long-running shadow war on the waterways of the Middle East targeting shipping in the region.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
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