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Stuxnet Is the Bomb

Russia says yes, Science says no

Dan Klein
January 27, 2011

Yesterday, the Russian envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin called for an investigation of Stuxnet, the not-quite-as-mysterious-as-it-used-to-be computer virus that apparently has set the Iranian nuclear program back at least months.

The envoy’s reasoning, however, is a bit suspect. He claimed that the virus, which causes uranium-enriching centrifuges to spin out of control while sending out fake signals to operators, could have caused a new “Chernobyl tragedy.”

Except it couldn’t. I put the possibility to Yuri Tarnopolsky, a retired chemist. He noted that while nuclear reactors are extremely vulnerable to cyber-threats, “The enrichment of uranium with centrifuges does not involve any nuclear reactions and presents a limited danger to the personal directly involved.”

Seeing how Russia actually built the targeted Bushehr plant, you can probably assume there’s somebody in the country that could have told Rogozin about, you know, science. Even the Iranian ambassador to Russia, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, seemed a little confused. He told reporters during a visit to Moscow, “I don’t think there will be problems in that area.”