Iran threatens retaliation after blast on nuclear site – Israel bracing for response

Iran will retaliate against any country that carries out cyberattacks on its nuclear sites, the head of civilian defense said after a blast at its Natanz nuclear plant destroyed a laboratory where Iran was developing advanced centrifuges for faster uranium enrichment.

Israeli Channel 13 reported that Israel is bracing for possible Iranian retaliation.

An article issued by state news agency IRNA addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States, although it stopped short of accusing either directly.

The blast at Natanz was the effect of a cyberattack aimed at gas compression controls, the Kuwaiti al-Jarida newspaper revealed on Friday, adding the explosion made a “crack” in the reactor building.

The Kuwaiti newspaper cited a “senior security source” as saying that the strike delayed the Iranian nuclear program by two months.

According to the report, last week’s blast in Iran’s Parchin ballistic missile plant, a major weapons research, development and manufacturing center, was the result of an airstrike conducted by Israeli F-35 stealth jet.

Both attacks were aimed at Iran’s stock of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) gas — a key component of the uranium enrichment process for both reactor fuel and weapons.

The strikes resulted in Iran losing over 80 percent of its UF6 reserves, which would greatly slow down Tehran’s enrichment ambitions.

Natanz, in Iran’s central Isfahan province, hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility and it’s one of the sites monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal. Natanz includes underground facilities buried under some 7.6 meters (25 feet) of concrete, which offers protection from airstrikes.

In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, which is widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack the Natanz facility.