The fire that took place at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran on Thursday morning (local time) may be the result of a cyber attack. Three Iranian officials say anonymously to news agency Reuters that they are convinced. However, they did not specifically state why they think that.
Iran's Atomic Energy Agency (AEOI) released a photo of the affected building near Natanz on Thursday. It shows that the walls and roof are damaged. A door hanging from its hinges suggests that an explosion has occurred inside, but this has not been confirmed.
One of Reuters ' sources says that a building where centrifuges are assembled was the target of the attack. These machines are used to enrich uranium.
The AEOI also posted a statement on its now inaccessible website on Thursday. The incident "has damaged one of the technical niches being built in the open space of the Natanz site," said spokesperson Behrouz Kamalvandi.
"This incident has not resulted in human casualties, nor has it jeopardized complex routine activities. Currently (Thursday, around 6:00 PM Dutch time, ed.), The organization's expert teams are on site investigating the matter . "
Iran: Cause of incident will be announced later
The Iranian National Security Council announced on Friday that the cause of the incident has been determined, but it is due to be released "due to security concerns".
A former official of Iran's nuclear energy program has told Reuters that sabotage should not be ruled out. In addition, the Natanz enrichment facility has been the target of a computer virus in the past, he said.
He refers to the Stuxnet computer virus discovered in 2010, which successfully sabotaged centrifuges in Natanz. After the virus entered the nuclear facility, the centrifuges managed to run wild.
The United States and Israel are said to have developed the virus. In September de Volkskrant revealed that Stuxnet was smuggled into the complex with the help of an AIVD agent.
"Responding to cyber attacks is part of the armed forces. If it is proven that our country was the target of a cyber attack, let us not leave it unanswered," said General Gholamreza Jalali of the Passive Civil Defense Organization on Iranian state television on Thursday evening.