Natanz nuclear facility in Iran
Natanz nuclear facility in IranReuters

Two intelligence officials told The New York Times on Sunday that the fire at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran was caused by a large explosion that completely destroyed the independent — and heavily protected — internal power system that supplies the underground centrifuges that enrich uranium.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the explosion had dealt a severe blow to Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and that it could take at least nine months to restore Natanz’s production.

The intelligence officials said there had been an “Israeli role” in the incident. Israel has not publicly confirmed or denied involvement in the incident.

It was not immediately clear how much advance word — if any — the Biden administration received about the Natanz operation, which happened on the same morning that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was visiting Israel, noted The New York Times.

Earlier on Sunday, an Iranian official blamed "sabotage" for the disruption of the electrical distribution grid of the Natanz nuclear facility.

Malek Shariati Niasar, the spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s energy committee, wrote on Twitter that the accident, which occurred one day after the plant began enriching uranium, was "very suspicious" and speculated that it was caused by “sabotage and infiltration.”

Iran has stated that there were no casualties or radiation leakage from the incident.

Iran’s top nuclear official condemned the attack on the country’s uranium enrichment plant at Natanz as an act of “nuclear terrorism”, and hinted that Iran may retaliate.