Iran has vowed to retaliate against any country that has carried out cyber attacks on nuclear sites following the fire at its Natanz plant, with some Iranian officials saying such sabotage could be the cause.
“Responding to a cyber attack is part of the country’s defense. This proves that our country has been targeted by a cyber attack, we will respond, ”Civil Defense Chief Golamreza Jalali told state TV late on Thursday night.
Underground Natanz Fuel Enrichment Center is one of several Iranian facilities operated by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.
Iran has said the cause of the “incident” at the nuclear site was determined, but will be announced at another time “for security reasons.”
Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency initially said an “incident” had taken place early Thursday morning in Natanz, in the desert in the central province of Isfahan.
It later published a picture of a one-story brick building whose roof and walls were partially burned, and the photo shows a door hanging with a hinge that caused an explosion inside the building.
An article released by the state news agency IRNA on Thursday called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States, although it has stopped filing direct complaints.
The IRNA said, “So far, Iran has tried to prevent an acute crisis and the formation of unpredictable situations and situations,” adding that no radiation was released from the fire.
“But crossing the red line of the Islamic Republic of Iran by hostile countries, especially the Zionist government and the United States, means this strategy … should be revised.”
Three Iranian officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said they believed the fire was the result of a cyber attack, but did not cite any evidence.
One of the officials said the attack targeted the Centrifuge Assembly building, citing subtle tubular machines such as uranium enrichment, and said Iran’s enemies had done similar things in the past.
Two of the officials said Israel may be behind the Natanz incident, but gave no evidence.
Asked about the latest incidents reported on strategic Iranian sites on Thursday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters: “Obviously we can’t get into that.”
Israel’s military and Netanyahu’s office, which oversees Israel’s foreign intelligence service Mossad, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2010, the Stansnet computer virus, believed to have been widely developed by the United States and Israel, was detected after it was used to attack the Natanz facility.
The underground Natanz site remains at the center of Iran’s enrichment program, although Tehran has always denied seeking nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Iran halted its nuclear program in 2015 in exchange for lifting most of the global sanctions under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, but President Trump has reduced compliance with the terms of the treaty since the United States withdrew in 2011.