‘Incident’ damages construction near Iran nuclear site

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – An “incident” damaged an under-construction building yesterday near Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, though it did not affect its centrifuge operations or cause any release of radiation, a spokesman said.

The affected building, described as an “industrial shed,” was above ground and not part of the enrichment facility itself, said BehrouzKamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Kamalvandi as saying there was “no need for concern” over the incident.

However, there was no previously announced construction work at Natanz, a uranium enrichment centre some 250 kilometres south of the capital, Tehran.

Natanz includes underground facilities buried under some 7.6 metres of concrete, which offers protection from airstrikes. Natanz is among the sites now monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The IAEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment over the incident.

Natanz, in Iran’s central Isfahan province, hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. There, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium. Currently, the IAEA said Iran enriches uranium to about 4.5 per cent purity, above the terms of the nuclear deal, but far below weapons-grade levels of 90 per cent.

Centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. PHOTO: AP