Nestled beneath the jagged desert terrain of the Karkas Mountains sits the crown jewel of Iran’s nuclear program. Natanz facility, home to the Islamic Republic’s largest known uranium enrichment center, enjoyed renewed national praise when President Hassan Rouhani visited the site Saturday to mark the country’s 16th annual National Nuclear Day. As envoys from the United States, Iran, and mediatory countries prepared for the upcoming week’s negotiations in Vienna—aimed at curbing Tehran’s atomic ambitions—Rouhani christened an army of advanced IR-6 centrifuges capable of yielding “10 times more product” in celebration of the holiday.
The next day, an explosion of unknown origins brought down the enrichment site’s primary and backup electrical grids. Among the blast’s casualties were “several thousand centrifuges” but no civilians.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesperson, Behrouz Kamalvandi, initially attributed the loss of power to an “accident,” but later reporting out of Israel and Iran pointed to sabotage by Jerusalem. By Tuesday, a several high-profile Iranian officials—including Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi—had assigned blame for the “nuclear terrorism” to their “Zionist” rivals in a government-wide call for retaliation.
“A large portion of the enemy’s sabotage can be restored, and this train cannot be stopped,” Salehi insisted after the infiltration. Iran’s state media adopted a similar narrative, reporting the impact to be minimal and concentrated to the plant’s antiquated IR-1 centrifuges.