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Iran vows revenge and blames Israel for nuke plant power outage

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)
April 12, 2021

On Monday, Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, vowed revenge against Israel for allegedly causing a power outage at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.

According to Reuters, Zarif in comments broadcast on Iranian media outlets, said of Israel, “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions … We will not fall into their trap.”

“We will not allow this act of sabotage to affect the nuclear talks,” Zarif added. “But we will take our revenge against the Zionists.”

While no one has outright claimed responsibility for the outage at Natanz, the New York Times reported American and Israeli intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel had played a role in the outage.

The intelligence officials told the New York Times the outage had been set off by an explosion that completely destroyed the Natanz facility’s internal power system, which supplies power to the plant’s centrifuges.

The officials also said the explosion severely hindered Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities and it could take up to nine months to restore Natanz to its full production capabilities.

Israel’s state-owned Kan News also reported that an intelligence official said the damage at the site was “extensive” and that various types of Iranian centrifuges installed at the top-secret underground center were damaged in the incident. The incident took place a day after Iran announced it had started up numerous advanced centrifuges.

The incident at Natanz came days after Iranian officials met in Vienna, Austria with the remaining members of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal. Then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in 2018, and Iran has also abandoned limits placed on it under the deal, and has exceeded uranium stockpiling and enrichment limits set out under the agreement.

The JCPOA members convened the talks last week to discuss ending sanctions on Iran and bringing Iran back into compliance with the agreement.

While Zarif touted progress in negotiating towards the end of sanctions against Iran, severe damage at Natanz could undermine Iran’s leverage at the negotiating table.

While the unnamed intelligence officials have described extensive damage and setbacks as a result of the incident at Natanz, satellite imagery over the facility showed minimal signs of damage.

Reporter Kyle Glen tweeted, “Satellite imagery at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran reportedly hit by an explosion shows no obvious damage at surface level. Initial reports suggested the explosion took place beneath the surface.”

Iran has also minimized the damage at the facility.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, “All of the centrifuges that went out of circuit at Natanz site were of the IR-1 type. Our nuclear experts are assessing the damage but I can assure you that Iran will replace damaged uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz with advanced ones.”

Iran’s IR-1 type centrifuges are its first centrifuge model, but newer and more advanced models of centrifuges can allow Iran to enrich uranium to a higher purity at a faster rate, potentially shortening the distance for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Khatibzadeh also said nuclear talks with the JCPOA members would resume in Vienna on Wednesday.