Explosions in Iranian Nuclear Facilities Could Be the Result of a Cyberattack

By Bill Toulas / July 4, 2020

Explosions and fire have damaged the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Iran, but the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) didn’t give many details about what caused the incident. The site lies right next to an underground production facility that was crippled by the Stuxnet worm in 2010. However, the latest incident could be a far less sophisticated sabotage case against the Iranian nuclear program. Some reports on Twitter point the finger to a hacking group who claimed responsibility for the attack almost immediately after the explosions occurred.

More specifically, a group called “Homeland Cheetahs” sent an email to Persian journalists working for the BBC, claiming responsibility for the Natanz facility attack even before anything had been reported to the news. The group said its members were part of the “underground opposition with Iran’s security apparatus,” which indicates socio-political motives behind the attack. However, this is just an email that came after the attacks, so it could be just a bogus claim. In fact, the whole thing looks like an accident considering the few details that were made known.

In regards to radioactivity, thankfully, there’s nothing dangerous that leaked out as a result of the explosions. The Natanz facility lies 250km south of Tehran and is where assembly work for centrifuge equipment takes place, so there are no substances that could potentially cause any environmental contamination. This has also been confirmed by “The International Atomic Energy Agency” (IAEA). This organization monitors Iran’s compliance with international nuclear standards, so there’s no doubt about this critical aspect of the event.

nuclear facilities

Source: BBC

Still, this incident comes only six days after another similar explosion that occurred near the Parchin military complex. That event was reportedly caused by “leaking gas tanks” - which again may be the reality - but the timing between the two events is suspiciously close. Natanz decided to double the production of centrifuges last November, supporting the operation of the Fordo uranium hexafluoride gas separating facility. The scene is complicated, and it involves various interrelated factors and conflicting entities, from the United States government to local groups. That said, all assumptions are based on blurry indications, and whatever the actual cause of the Natanz explosions was, it doesn’t look like a sophisticated actor was involved.

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