WH: New Iran nuke centrifuges 'provocative'

Feb. 1, 2013 at 3:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Iran's plan to add 3,000 faster centrifuges to its main uranium enrichment facility was a "further escalation" in a nuclear standoff, the White House said.

"The installation of new advanced centrifuges is a further escalation and a continuing violation" of U.N. resolutions on the issue, spokesman Jay Carney said after Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency it planned to install and operate the advanced uranium-enrichment machines.

The new centrifuges could shorten the time needed if Tehran decides to build a nuclear bomb, Washington and other Western governments said.

Diplomats said the disclosure deepened their concern Tehran was not serious about resuming talks over demands it curb its nuclear program.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

The IR-2m centrifuges, planned for the enrichment hall at the Natanz nuclear complex near a central Iranian town, spin three to five times faster than the current IR-1 model, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The million-square-foot fuel enrichment plant, near a major highway 20 miles northwest of the 12,000-population town of Natanz, is built three stories underground and protected by a concrete wall 8 feet thick, which is itself protected by another concrete wall.

The plant had about 7,000 centrifuges in 2009, with 5,000 producing low-enriched uranium, the IAEA said in a 2009 report.

Carney said Thursday installing new centrifuges would be a "yet another provocative step by Iran and will only invite further isolation by the international community."

"But this does not come as a surprise given the IAEA's regular reports on Iran's development of advanced centrifuges," Carney said.

The 3,000 centrifuges would take up to a year to install, CBS News reported.

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