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November 22, 2010

Stuxnet may have delayed Iran’s nuclear programme

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by Janet Harris

When news of the Stuxnet worm hitting Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant came out back in September, officials claimed that it had not caused any serious damage.

However Ollie Heinonen, formerly of the United Nations nuclear inspections team has told Reuters news agency that the worm could have caused centrifuges at the plant to fail.

Stuxnet was first discovered in June, after which 160 centrifuges were taken offline at the plant in just a couple of months, leading to speculation that the malware could have interfered with the speed of the motors, damaging Iran’s nuclear capability.

Although Heinonen said that this could be coincidental, the theory does support research carried out by security firm Symantec, which found that Stuxnet was targeting frequency converter drives such as those used to control the speed of motors in centrifuges.

Whatever the reason, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant will now start generating power in Janaury 2011, two months later than scheduled.

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