Iran Admits Fire in Natanz Is a Setback to Centrifuge Program

Fire did considerable damage to above-ground lab

Updated on 7/6/20 at 3:53 pm ET

Last week, an incident of “sabotage” was reported on the site of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility. The fire was claimed to have damaged a shed, and Iran said at the time that damage was minimal, there were no casualties, and no radiation leaks.

Over the weekend, experts began warning that damage was much worse than previously admitted. Fire appears to have wiped out an above-ground lab, leveling it, and Iranian officials concede it has set back their centrifuge program substantially.

Satellite images showed broader damage on the surface, though it is not believed the centrifuges, which are installed underground, had anything happen to them. Either way, the fire and sabotage are more substantial than was initially understood.

This makes responsibility all the more important. Israel is widely suspected to have carried this out with a cyberattack, though an unknown group called Cheetahs of the Homeland had also claimed credit.

An anonymous Middle Eastern intelligence official told The New York Times that Israel was responsible for the attack and used a powerful bomb. Another unnamed official from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps also said an explosive was used.

If the attack did more damage, so too is Iran’s retaliation more likely. Iranian officials say they know who did it, and hasn’t disclosed that.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of