ANALYSTS CLAIM FIRE AT IRAN NUKE SITE HIT CENTRIFUGE FACILITY
A fire and an explosion struck a building above Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility early on Thursday, a site that US-based analysts identified as a new centrifuge production plant, John Gambrell and Joseph Krauss wrote for the Associated Press (AP) late on July 2, 2020.
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran sought to downplay the fire, calling it an “incident” that only affected an under-construction “industrial shed,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said. However, both Kamalvandi and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi rushed after the fire to Natanz, which has been targeted in sabotage campaigns in the past.
Kamalvandi did not identify what damaged the building, though Natanz governor Ramazanali Ferdowsi said a “fire” had struck the site, according to a report by the semiofficial Tasnim news agency. Authorities offered no cause for the blaze, though Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency published a commentary addressing the possibility of sabotage by enemy nations such as Israel and the US following other recent explosions in the country.
`The site of the fire corresponds to a newly opened centrifuge production facility, said Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. He said he relied on satellite images and a state TV program on the facility to locate the building, which sits in Natanz’s northwest corner. David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security similarly said the fire struck the production facility. His institute previously wrote a report on the new plant, identifying it from satellite pictures while it was under construction and later built.