Iran downplays Natanz ‘incident’ - analysis

Iranian media is being forthright about the current incident and downplaying it.

Exhibition of nuclear achievements of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, April 10, 2021 (photo credit: PRESIDENT.IR VIA TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)
Exhibition of nuclear achievements of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, April 10, 2021
A day after Iran bragged about its latest achievements in nuclear technology, including boasting about advanced centrifuges, Tehran says an “incident” occurred at the electricity network linked to the Natanz enrichment facility.
Iran has said the nuclear facility in Iran was hit by a “terrorist act,” according to nuclear official Ali Akbar Salehi. Allegations of “terrorism” and “sabotage” were made Sunday afternoon.
The incident has received front-page coverage in Iranian media. Tehran is both downplaying its potential severity and also revealing it to the world. This messaging could indicate that the Islamic Republic wants to show that everything is under control or to use the incident as leverage.
On Saturday, Iranian media reports said President Hassan Rouhani had ordered experts to “begin injecting gas to a new generation of centrifuges at Natanz enrichment facility. Iran also began the mechanical testing of IR-9 centrifuges and launched an assembly line for its new generation of centrifuges. In Natanz, the order was given to feed gas to 164 all-Iranian IR6 centrifuges, with 10 SWU – separative work units that indicate the amount of separation done by an enrichment process.”
This has happened over recent months. Last July, the facility was damaged in a mysterious explosion Iran blamed on sabotage. On Saturday, it said such sabotage was unlikely again.
Regarding last year’s incident at Natanz, there was a “terrorist act [and] part of the infrastructure of this center was destroyed,” the report on Saturday said. However, a new center for assembling centrifuges has now been completed, it said.
“With this measure, in which all the localization power of the country has been used, from now on, the production of new centrifuge machines will be done without any trouble, and there will not be the slightest disturbance in this process,” the report said.
On Sunday, the country “announced the occurrence of incidents this morning in a part of the electricity network of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan Natanz enrichment facility,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s civilian nuclear program, said during an exclusive interview with Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.
The incident did not cause any injuries or pollution, Iran said. The cause of the accident is under investigation, and further information would be announced, Kamalvandi said.
Iran referred to last July’s incident in its article on the current incident.
On Saturday night, Atomic Energy Organization head Ali Akbar Salehi referred to the next-generation centrifuge assembly center that was inaugurated earlier in the day on the 15th national anniversary of nuclear technology.
“The enemy blew up our centrifuge assembly hall a few months ago [in July 2020]… but that did not stop [our progress, because another hall is being used under] makeshift conditions,” he said in a televised interview. “Now we are working day and night in the heart of the mountain and near Natanz, and we hope that the desired sections in the heart of the mountain will be ready next year, and we will move these facilities there.”
Iran is pushing forward with “gasification of a new generation [of] centrifuge machines that was carried out in Natanz Enrichment Complex. IR-9 centrifuge mechanical tests were started, and [a] new generation centrifuge assembly center was started,” Iranian media reported Sunday.
Iranian media is being forthright about the current incident but is downplaying it.