Three-quarters of Natanz centrifuge assembly hall destroyed - nuke experts

Security expert David Albright told the ‘Post’ that some of the damage is likely irreparable.

View of a damage building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan, Iran, July 2, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS)
View of a damage building after a fire broke out at Iran's Natanz Nuclear Facility, in Isfahan, Iran, July 2, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Nearly three-quarters of Iran’s main centrifuge assembly hall was destroyed by the recent explosion there, Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) president David Albright told The Jerusalem Post.
Albright indicated that this latest revelation is based on two new satellite overviews showing a much fuller picture than footage that was released last weekend, indicating that the vast majority of the centrifuge assembly hall was wiped out.
This could mean there will be increased delay to Iran’s nuclear program, since it will have to recover from the incident.
“It is clear that a major explosion took place, destroying nearly three-quarters of the main centrifuge assembly hall, generating a fire that blackened a major portion of the building, the blackening visible where the roof had been blown away by the explosion,” Albright said.
According to the latest report by the think tank, “High-resolution commercial satellite imagery... shows that the Iran Centrifuge Assembly Center (ICAC) at the Natanz Enrichment Site has suffered significant, extensive, and likely irreparable damage to its main assembly hall section.”
Further, the report says, “This new facility, inaugurated in 2018, was critical to the mass production of advanced centrifuges, in particular the assembly of rotor assemblies, the rapidly spinning part of the centrifuge and its most crucial component.”
In terms of rolling back Tehran’s future nuclear program plans, the report adds, “An annex to the building was intended to assemble electrical components of centrifuges, including motors – another important component of centrifuges.”
Albright said that his institute’s findings are confirmed by Iran’s shifting story.
“While early reporting from Iran suggested that a fire was ‘limited’ and restricted to a ‘shed under construction,’” he said, “more recent Iranian admissions are stating that the damage was ‘significant.’”
The report said that “the visible damage is such that the entire building will likely have to be razed and rebuilt from scratch.”
It added that, “Advanced centrifuge rotor assemblies are typically assembled in ‘clean rooms,’ an expensive-to-build environment free from dust and other contaminants,” and a 2018 video showed what appear to be clean rooms at the facility in question.
Other destroyed items which could be hard to replace could include: “balancing machines, specialized rotor assembly equipment, measuring equipment and centrifuge test stands.”
Albright estimated that the facility would take at least a year to rebuild, but likely longer since it took six years, from 2012-2018, to build it and become operational the first time.
Although the explosion will not prevent Iran from performing advanced centrifuge research at other locations, Albright said that only the Natanz facility had the potential capability to mass produce advanced centrifuges in the thousands.
Most importantly, it is a major setback for moving forward with the IR-4, the only advanced centrifuge which has been expected to show more immediate promise.
Iran has a variety of other advanced centrifuges that it shows off for public relations, but which have failed completely or are still far from fully operational.
The Natanz explosion is considered the most significant of six explosions that have occurred in Iran since late June, shaking the regime’s confidence.
To date, Tehran has not responded and it is unclear if it has a solid lead on who caused the explosions, or if some of the explosions may have been caused by outdated infrastructure.
The explosions come 14 months after Iran started to violate the 2015 nuclear deal’s limits, with estimates that it is four to six months from being able to produce a nuclear bomb.