Iran Unplugged: Preview of Coming Attractions?

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Herwig Prammer / Reuters

Iran's Head of Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani attends a news conference during the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna on June 21, 2011.

Iran’s nuclear-energy chief said Monday that his nation’s most heavily defended nuclear-enrichment plant had been unplugged with extreme prejudice last month.

Actually, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said the electrical lines powering the buried plant at Fordow from the nearby city of Qom had been blown up by unknown saboteurs. The same thing happened at Iran’s Natanz plant at an unspecified earlier date, he told the annual member-state session of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

The world fears Tehran – which says it wants to develop nuclear power solely for peaceful purposes – is seeking nuclear weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that Iran was six to seven months away from being able to build an atomic bomb.

“It should be recalled,” Abbasi-Davani told the IAEA, “that power cut-off is one of the ways to break down centrifuge machines.”

No kidding. For years, U.S. war planners looking for ways to attack such sites have focused on their so-called “umbilicals” – the power, air and water links that any major industrial facility requires to operate. With those destroyed, any industrial site becomes very expensive pile of scrap. Hardening such systems against such ancillary attacks could prove daunting.

“A functional defeat may be achieved by various means: closing ingress/egress portals, destroying umbilicals such as electrical power lines, phone line and radio antennas, or by denying life-support systems relating to air and water supplies,” a 2004 Air Force study noted.

Emphasis added.