Iran Installs Upgraded Centrifuges at Natanz

News Brief – Feb 13, 2013

In a move that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says could shorten its path to an atomic bomb, Iran has begun installing new centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility.
Netanyahu says the new centrifuges could cut the time needed to produce a nuclear weapon by as much as a third.
The announcement is likely to heighten tensions with the West over Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
The upgraded centrifuges have been designed by Iranian experts and manufactured locally.
According to Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, the process of installing the upgraded centrifuges began last month.
“We have produced the machines as planned and we are carrying out the installation gradually … to complete the tests,” Abbasi-Davani told the Iranian Students News Agency.
It is still uncertain how many of the upgraded centrifuges will be installed at Natanz but according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the facility has the capacity to house up to three thousand centrifuges.
However, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation also criticised IAEA inspectors who divulged news about the upgraded centrifuges after visiting Natanz.
“Three to four days after IAEA experts reported the installation of these [new] centrifuges to the Agency, their information was given to Western media which cited their source as an IAEA expert, Abbasi-Davani was reported as saying.
“This shows that information is easily leaked from the Agency,” he added.
Although Western powers have imposed widespread sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program Tehran remains defiant, insisting that the program is for peaceful purposes only.
The announcement comes in the run-up to new talks with major world powers over Iran’s nuclear program.
Scheduled to take place on February 26, the installation of the upgraded centrifuges is seen as a strategic move in preparation for the talks.
The Carnegie Endowments Nuclear proliferation expert Mark Hibbs told Reuters:
“It doesn’t necessarily mean they are shutting the door. It does mean that they are putting as many chips on the table as they can.”

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