An "incident" damaged an under-construction building Thursday 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 Behrouz Kamalvandi, 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.
"There are physical and financial damages and we are investigating to assess," Kamalvandi later told Iranian state television. "Furthermore, there has been no interruption in the work of the enrichment site. Thank God, the site is continuing its work as before."
However, there was no previously announced construction work at Natanz, a uranium enrichment center some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the capital, Tehran. Natanz includes underground facilities buried under some 7.6 meters (25 feet) of concrete, which offers protection from airstrikes. The incident also appeared serious enough for both Kamalvandi and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi to rush to Natanz.
Ramazanali Ferdowsi, the governor of the town of Natanz, later described the incident as a "fire." Ferdowsi said both firefighters and rescue teams deployed to the site to handle the incident. He offered no cause for the blaze in his remarks reported by the semiofficial Tasnim news agency.
Natanz, also known as the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, is among the sites now monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The IAEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment over the incident.
Located in Iran's central Isfahan province, Natanz hosts the country's main uranium enrichment facility. There, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium. Currently, the IAEA says Iran enriches uranium to about 4.5% purity, above the terms of the nuclear deal, but far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. It also has conducted tests on advanced centrifuges, according to the IAEA.
Iran says there has been an “incident” at one of its nuclear facilities monitored by the U.N.'s atomic agency, but there was no damage to the site.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behruz Kamalvandi said the incident occurred early on July 2 at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in central Iran where a building under construction, described as an "industrial shed," was damaged, though there was no impact on its centrifuge facility.
There was no previously announced construction work at Natanz, the Islamic republic's main uranium enrichment center located some 250 kilometers south of Tehran, which includes underground facilities built under some 7.6 meters of concrete to offer protection from airstrikes.
"The incident did not cause any casualties and did not damage the current activities of this complex," Kamalvandi was quoted as saying by several Iranian media outlets including the state-run IRNA news agency.
The affected building was above ground and not part of the enrichment facility itself, Kamalvandi said, adding that there was “no need for concern” over the incident, which was being investigated by experts from the organization.
Natanz is among the sites now monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May 2018. Iran now is breaking all the production limits set by the deal, but still allows IAEA inspectors and cameras to watch its nuclear sites.
Currently, the IAEA says Iran enriches uranium to about 4.5 percent purity, above the terms of the nuclear deal, but far below weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.
Natanz was at the center of a dispute last year as Iranian officials refused to allow an IAEA inspector into the facility in October after allegedly testing positive for suspected traces of explosive nitrates.