Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility suffered a power outage on Sunday morning which media in Israel were quick to blame on its intelligence agency Mossad, a charge with the Israeli government neither confirmed nor denied.
The suspected sabotage happened a day after Iran observed ‘Nuclear Technology Day’ that falls on April 10 as part of which the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) began injecting gas into a complete chain of 164 IR6 centrifuge machines in Natanz enrichment facility. It also inaugurated a station purifying the Uranium Hexafluoride input at Natanz, state media reported.
Several Israeli media outlets said quoting unnamed officials that a cyber-attack darkened Natanz and damaged a facility that is home to sensitive centrifuges. The attack is reminiscent of a cyber-attak years ago when a suspected computer virus, “Stutnext” halted centrifuges at the Natanz facility. The virus, blamed an Israeli-U.S. joint operation, was hailed as the World’s first cyber-weapon.
Acknowledging the power outage incident, AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told Iranian media that an incident took place in a part of the electricity distribution network of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, adding, “Fortunately, the incident did not cause any human injuries or pollution.”
AEOI head, Ali Akbar Salehi, said, "While condemning this desperate move, the Islamic Republic of Iran emphasizes the need for a confrontation by the international bodies and the (International Atomic Energy Agency) against this nuclear terrorism,” he added.
The IAEA, the United Nations' body that monitors Tehran's atomic program, earlier said it was aware of media reports about the incident at Natanz and had spoken with Iranian officials about it. The agency did not elaborate.
Iranian parliamentarian, Malek Shariati Niasar, who serves as spokesperson for the Iranian Parliament's energy committee, wrote on Twitter that the incident was "very suspicious,” raising concerns about possible "sabotage and infiltration.”
Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion at its advanced centrifuge assembly plant in July last year that authorities later described as sabotage. Iran now is rebuilding that facility deep inside a nearby mountain.