Authorities say they thwarted attempted sabotage that targeted a sprawling nuclear centre located in Karaj city, just some 40 kilometres northwest of Tehran.

There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other locations in Iran under IAEA safeguards.
There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other locations in Iran under IAEA safeguards. (Reuters Archive)

Iranian authorities have thwarted what they called a "sabotage attack" targeting a civilian nuclear facility near the country's capital, state TV reported, as details about the incident remained scarce.

The attempted attack against a building belonging to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization "left no casualties or damages and was unable to disrupt the Iranian nuclear programme," Iranian state TV reported on Wednesday, adding that authorities were working to identify the perpetrators.

Iranian media offered no details on the kind of attack, saying only that the move targeted a sprawling nuclear centre located in Karaj city, just some 40 kilometres northwest of Tehran.

When asked for comment, an Iranian official referred to the initial report by Nournews, believed to be close to Iran's Supreme National Security Council. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they did not have authorisation to discuss the matter with media.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' body that monitors Tehran's atomic programme, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Covid-19 vaccine facility threatened?

Iranian authorities did not specify which facility in Karaj had been targeted. There are two sites associated with Iran's nuclear programme known to be in the area, including the Karaj Agricultural and Medical Research Center.

Iran's Atomic Energy Organization describes the Karaj Agricultural and Medical Research Center as a facility founded in 1974 that uses nuclear technology to improve "quality of soil, water, agricultural and livestock production."

The area is located near various industrial sites, including pharmaceutical production facilities where Iran has manufactured its domestic coronavirus vaccine.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian social media crackled with unconfirmed reports that authorities had prevented an unmanned aerial vehicle from targeting a Covid-19 vaccine production facility.

There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other locations in Iran under IAEA safeguards. The agricultural nuclear research center is not listed as a "safeguard facility" with the IAEA, though a nearby nuclear waste facility around Karaj is. 

The IAEA visited the site in 2003.

The Karaj facility had "been storing waste from the nuclear programme and equipment dismantled from atomic vapor laser isotope separation experiments in the nearby Lashkar Abad," according to a policy paper by the Washington Institute for Near-East Policy written in March 2015.

Shutdown at Bushehr power plant

Earlier this week, Iran's sole nuclear power plant at Bushehr underwent an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown.

 Authorities earlier this year had warned of the plant's possible closure because of American sanctions that allegedly prevented Iran from procuring equipment for repairs.

On Tuesday, the IAEA said it was informed of a technical programme striking the Bushehr plant's electrical generator. The agency said the facility would go back online after being reconnected to the national electric grid.

Iran's nuclear department said that engineers were working to repair the broken generator.

Source: AP