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Iran nuclear site fire: Iran declines to disclose cause of mysterious fire at Natanz nuclear facility

As per the Governor of Natanz, Ramazanali Ferdowsi, the fire only damaged a building under construction within the complex and did not affect the main area of the nuclear facility. 

Jul 4, 2020 16:04 IST
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A mysterious fire reportedly broke out at Iran’s Natanz nuclear complex on July 2, 2020 causing major damage to a factory. This was revealed by a photo released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) of a building at the nuclear site, which is one of Iran’s main nuclear-fuel production sites. 

Iran has since struggled to explain the cause of the fire. A top Iranian security spokesman stated that Iran knows the cause of the fire at the Natanz nuclear site but will not make it public at this time due to “security reasons.”

The fire has reportedly caused extensive damage to a factory where Iran was allegedly producing a new generation of centrifuges. The United States has repeatedly warned that such machinery could speed up Iran’s path to building nuclear weapons. 

Key Highlights 

•  No casualties have been reported at the nuclear facility, which is located in Iran's Isfahan Province, south of Tehran. 

•  The incident is currently being investigated and according to security officials, there is no evidence of sabotage.

•  Iran’s Supreme National Security Council revealed on July 3 that the main cause of the fire has been determined and will be announced at an appropriate time.

•  Iranian experts are allegedly investigating "different hypotheses" about the incident immediately after it happened.

•  As per the Governor of Natanz, Ramazanali Ferdowsi, the fire only damaged a building under construction within the complex and did not affect the main area of the nuclear facility. The damaged building did not have any nuclear material. 

•  The fire has hence, not disrupted the ongoing activities at the site including enrichment work at the facility, which is mostly done underground.

IAEA’s statement

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), global nuclear watchdog, said that it was aware of the fire incident reported in Natanz and stated that it is in contact with the relevant safeguards authorities there to confirm that all necessary safeguard verification activities are taking place at the site. 

Background

The fire at Iran’s nuclear facility comes just a week after a major explosion took place on the outskirts of Tehran, near the town of Parchin and a military facility.

The damaged site is near the underground fuel production facilities where 10 years ago, the United States and Israel had conducted the most sophisticated cyberattack in modern history with the code-name “Olympic Games. The attack’s main aim was to alter the computer code of Iran’s industrial equipment and destroy about 1,000 centrifuges, setting back Iran’s nuclear program for a year or more.

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