The worm which infected Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities in 2009 and 2010 may have actually increased Iran’s nuclear potential.

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has just released a report on the Stuxnet worm which exposed vulnerabilities in the Iranian enrichment facilities at Natanz back in 2009-10. These vulnerabilities would otherwise have gone unnoticed, and in the year following the attack, the production of the facility actually increased. Because of the west’s impression of Natanz being under attack, Iran was free to operate the plant while hindering diplomatic solutions to reducing Iran’s nuclear presence.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tours Natanz

 

An analysis of data collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) argues that Iran has improves and regrouped the facility’s centrifuge performance, leading to a higher concentration of uranium in their enrichment process. The number of machines operating at Natanz has also been steadily growing since 2010.

 

The Stuxnet bug originally changed the frequency at which motors connected to the gas centrifuge at Natanz, so Iran responded by decommissioning and replacing over 1000 IR-1 centrifuges in early 2010. The new centrifuges are not affected by the bug. Ivanka Barzashka, an academic at Kings College London, explains that "Stuxnet's effects have not simply 'worn off'." "Stuxnet was of net benefit to Iran if, indeed, its government wants to build a bomb or increase its nuclear-weapons potential.”