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Explosion rocks Iranian nuclear facility: analysts

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 2020-07-02 Brian Niemietz

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a pole that has a sign on a dirt road: This photo released Thursday, July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows a building after it was damaged by a fire, at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. A fire burned the building above Iran's underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, though officials say it did not affect its centrifuge operation or cause any release of radiation. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran sought to downplay the fire Thursday, calling it an "incident" that only affected an "industrial shed." (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP) © Atomic Energy Organization of Iran This photo released Thursday, July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows a building after it was damaged by a fire, at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. A fire burned the building above Iran's underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, though officials say it did not affect its centrifuge operation or cause any release of radiation. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran sought to downplay the fire Thursday, calling it an "incident" that only affected an "industrial shed." (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

A centrifuge production plant above Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility was damaged by fire and an explosion around 2 a.m. Thursday, according to analysts.

A U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite detected the fire from afar.

Iranian state media released images of a singed building with a seemingly shattered roof. A door appeared to have been blown off its hinges.

Government spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi immediately headed to the site that houses a development program 25 feet underground to protect it from airstrikes. The site had previously been targeted by a cyber-attack.

Kamalvandi confirmed there had been damage at the site, but said it would not affect the facility’s enrichment of uranium.

Iranian state-run media appears to be pointing a finger at the U.S.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has so far has tried to prevent intensifying crises and the formation of unpredictable conditions and situations,” a news commentary suggested. “But ‘the crossing of red lines of the Islamic Republic of Iran by hostile countries, especially the Zionist regime and the U.S., means that strategy... should be revised.‘”

a close up of a map: A fire has burned a building above Iran's underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, though officials say it did not affect its centrifuge operation or cause any release of radiation. © Provided by New York Daily News A fire has burned a building above Iran's underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, though officials say it did not affect its centrifuge operation or cause any release of radiation.

A fire has burned a building above Iran's underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, though officials say it did not affect its centrifuge operation or cause any release of radiation. (f.duckett/)

That report did not directly address what the Atomic Energy Organization dismissed as an “incident” at an industrial shed that was under construction.

Middlebury Institute of International Studies researcher Fabian Hinz told the Associates Press said he viewed satellite photos from California called the fire “very, very suspicious.” He said targeting the centrifuges would likely slow Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Hinz said the above-ground structure appeared to be a “newly opened centrifuge production facility” on the northwest corner of the compound.

David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security also concluded from satellite photos that there had been a blaze in an external building at the nuclear site. His organization started studying the central Iranian facility’s progress after construction began in 2002.

The plant at Nanantz is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which said Thursday it was aware a fire had been reported and didn’t anticipate changes in safeguards regarding the facility. Nuclear material produced at Nanantz is not weapon-grade.

The U.S. State Department said it, too, was “monitoring reports” of a fire at an Iranian nuclear site. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from its deal with the IAEA and Iran in 2018.

An explosion felt in the capital city of Tehran last week raised suspicions Iran’s military may have had a mishap of some sort. Iranian officials blamed that blast on a gas leak.

Iran expert Yoel Guzansky of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies told the AP these explosions seem like more than a coincidence. He noted the U.S. and Israel have an interest in hindering Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“If Iran won’t stop, we might see more accidents in Iran,” Guzansky said.

With News Wire Services

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