Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Power lines connecting Iranian nuclear installations to the electrical grid have been targeted by saboteurs seeking to destroy its atomic facilities, said the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
Power lines running to Iran’s Fordo uranium-enrichment facility were blown up on Aug. 17, Fereydoon Abassi-Davani said today in prepared remarks to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The lines running to Iran’s Natanz complex were also targeted, he said without providing dates.
“Iran is now able to ward off threats from cyber attacks and the use of explosives,” Davani told delegates at the IAEA’s annual general conference. “Nuclear facilities remain intact under protection from missile attacks and air raids.”
The Fordo facility, built into the side of a mountain, produces most of the Islamic Republic’s medium-grade enriched uranium. The Natanz site produces Iran’s low-enriched material. Cutting power during enrichment can cause centrifuges, the fast-spinning machines that separate uranium isotopes, to fail.
IAEA investigators called a surprise inspection the morning after the Fordo blast, Davani said. Iran suspects that the agency is being used by some members to conduct espionage, he said.
“Does this visit have anything to do with the detonation?” Davani said. “Who, other than the IAEA inspector, can have access to the complex in such a short time to record and report failures?”
The IAEA’s board of governors and the United Nations Security Council have instructed inspectors to write quarterly reports on Iran’s atomic work since the agency’s investigation began in 2003.
While Iran “remains committed to the agency and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” the IAEA should “change its approach in regard to Iran,” Davani said. Inspectors are guilty of sharing information that has led to the assassination of nuclear scientists and resulted in sabotage, he said.
The IAEA’s indifference to what Davani called “nuclear terrorism” in Iran “could be dangerous to the specialists of other countries in the future,” Davani said. Hundreds of Iranian scientists have volunteered and been recruited to replace the three nuclear specialists who were murdered, he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have indicated that as Iran proceeds with its nuclear work and negotiations stall, Israel may launch a preemptive strike against the Persian Gulf nation’s atomic sites. Barak has said the Jewish state may need to act before Iran reaches a “zone of immunity” where its underground enrichment facilities would be invulnerable to air attacks.
Iran increased the amount of 20 percent-enriched uranium produced at Fordo to 189.4 kilograms (417.6 pounds) from 145 kilograms in May, the IAEA said on Aug. 30. Its stockpile of low-enriched uranium at Natanz, purified to less than 5 percent, grew to 6,876 kilograms from 6,232 kilograms.
About 175 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium, or 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, if further purified, could yield the quantity of weapons-grade uranium needed to produce a bomb, according to the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a non-governmental observer to the IAEA that’s funded by European governments.
The IAEA’s 155 members are meeting this week in Vienna to review nuclear safety and security. The U.S. and European nations repeated criticisms over Iran’s atomic program.
“Iran continues a decade-long pattern of evasion regarding questions over the nature of its nuclear program, including those related to possible military dimensions of its nuclear activities,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said today in a speech.
Iran, which insists its atomic work is for peaceful purposes, agreed to discuss its nuclear program with Europe Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the EU said today in a statement. The Persian Gulf nation’s top atomic official, Saeed Jalili, will meet Ashton tomorrow in Istanbul.
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