'Israel tested Stuxnet virus at Dimona reactor'

'New York Times' claims that Israel had obtained centrifuges identical to those used by Iran at the Natanz enrichment facility, tested the virus on them.

January 17, 2011 01:41
2 minute read.
Uranium centrifuges.

Uranium 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Israel tested the Stuxnet virus on Iranian centrifuges constructed inside its nuclear reactor in Dimona, the New York Times reported on Sunday, apparently shedding light on the mystery surrounding the cyber attack that is believed to have significantly damaged Iran’s nuclear program.

According to various reports, the reactor in southern Israel contains a building which houses a small number of centrifuges which are used to enrich military-grade uranium. The Times claimed that Israel had obtained centrifuges identical to those used by Iran at the Natanz enrichment facility and tested the virus on them.

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According to various analyses of Stuxnet’s code, the virus was designed to target systems that have a frequency converter, a type of device that controls the speed of a motor, like a centrifuge which spins around using a motor to enrich uranium. The virus then increases the motor speeds above the normal level, causing the centrifuges to break.

In 2008, also according to the Times, German company Siemens cooperated with the Idaho National Laboratory, helping it to identify problems in the company’s computer controllers, which are used in Iranian nuclear plants. The laboratory is part of the American Energy Department, which is responsible for nuclear weapons in the US.

The vulnerabilities identified in 2008 were used the following year by Stuxnet, said the report.

Additionally, Stuxnet was developed by the US and Israel, with help of Berlin and London, who may not be aware of the parts they played. Former US president George W. Bush reportedly authorized the program in January 2009, and President Barack Obama, with Israel’s encouragement, ordered its acceleration.

A Washington official told the Times that rather than allow Israel to attack Iran, the US wanted “to put time on the clock... and now, we have a bit more.” Also Sunday, Norway’s Aftenposten revealed American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks which show that despite tightening sanctions, Iran has continued covert attempts to purchase technology for its nuclear program through more than 350 companies.

According to the cables, Iran tried several times in 2008 and 2009 to buy uranium, computers and control systems required to run nuclear facilities.

“A race exists between the bomb and financial collapse,” the daily cited a cable quoting a French nuclear expert.

“For years, Iran has been working systematically to acquire the parts, equipment and technology needed for developing such weapons, in violation of UN sanctions against the country’s nuclear and missile program,” the US State Department note from February 2009 said.

According to the cables, Iran had practically run out of uranium, which forced Teheran to look abroad for more radioactive material. “Iran’s limited domestic supply of uranium makes it practically impossible to supply the nation’s current and future nuclear power plant capacity,” the cable said.

The cable went on to say that “the Iranians are likely to be forced into dealing with foreign suppliers to get uranium for their domestic nuclear industry.”

AP and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to the report.

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