A severe explosion that damaged part of a building of the Natanz nuclear power plant (NNPP) in Iran is being attributed to an Israeli cyber attack while Iranian officials claim it was an accident.
The explosion and fire appear to have started from the inside. A look at a hand-out photo of the fire released by the Atomic Energy Organization Iran (AEOI) shows a part of the building’s roof and side appear burnt but an adjacent lamp post and another thin structure protruding from the building have no damage. The windows and doors looks as if they are blown outwards.
Soon after the explosion on July 2, a hacker group calling itself ‘domestic cheetah’ emailed several Persian-language media outlets claiming responsibility for a ‘cyber attack.’ The fact that it was aware of the incident even before the Iranian announcement leads some suspicion of its hand in the attack, either by itself or helped by foreign intelligence, probably Israel which has a track record of attempting to disrupt Iran's nuclear program.
An atomic energy expert who did not wish to identified told Defenseword.net that if it indeed was a centrifuge facility, which should be housing several centrifuges spinning at very high speed all connected by computers; the possibility of a malware causing one or more centrifuges to spin out of control exists as also an unintended accident. “The centrifuges contain gases under very high pressure, if the gas pressure exceeds the tolerance limit of the centrifuges, an explosion may occur.”
While Iran claims that the damaged building was a shed to house waste material, reports in anti-Iranian regime media say that the building in question is a centrifuge assembly center run by the Iran Centrifugal Technology Company (ICTC). The long building corresponds to the requirements for housing several centrifuges arranged in a chain to enrich Uranium-235. By spinning the centrifuges at high speed, the separation of U-235 from uranium oxide is ensured. The extracted U-235 can then be used to make nuclear fuel or bombs.
An IAEA statement said Friday, “The IAEA has been informed by Iran about a fire in a building at the site of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility early on Thursday. Iran also informed that the fire was quickly extinguished and that there had been no nuclear material in the building. The Natanz site is under IAEA safeguards, including both safeguards verification and JCPOA verification and monitoring.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) commented, “Experts from different sectors started investigating ‘different hypotheses’ about the incident at the Natanz nuclear facility in central Iran immediately after its occurrence, and have determined its main cause which will be announced at an appropriate time.”