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Fire breaks out at Iranian nuclear facility

DUBAI: A fire broke out at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility but there were no casualties and the site is operating as usual, Iranian officials said on Thursday.

The Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), Iran’s main uranium enrichment site, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation initially reported that “an incident” had occurred at the facility in the central province of Isfahan.

It later published a photo showing a shed at ground level had been partly burned.

“There is some damage to the shed which we are investigating. It was inactive and there was no radioactive material in it and there were no personnel,” the organisation’s spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi told state TV.

“There has been no interruption in the work of the enrichment site and no damage to the site.”

The governor of Natanz city, Ramazanali Ferdosi, later said the incident was caused by fire, adding that firefighters had been sent to the site. He gave no further details about the cause of the blaze, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

A team of experts from the Atomic Energy Organisation is investigating the cause of the incident.

Some experts did not rule out the possibility of sabotage given the importance of the Natanz nuclear site.

“Considering that this so-called incident happened just a few days after the explosion near the Parchin military base, the possibility of a sabotage cannot be ruled out,” a former Iranian nuclear official told Reuters.

“Also Natanz enrichment facility has been targeted in the past by a computer virus,” he said, referring to an attack in 2010 by the Stuxnet computer virus that damaged centrifuges at the site and is widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel.

Last Friday an explosion occurred east of Tehran near a sensitive military complex which the authorities said was caused by a tank leak in a gas storage facility in a public area.

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