Iran has told the UN nuclear agency it plans to upgrade uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz plant, reports citing diplomats say.
The move would allow the country to refine uranium at a faster rate, increasing fears among western states about Iran's intentions.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful in purpose. The US and its allies fear it seeks nuclear weapons.
The plan was set out in a letter to the IAEA dated 23 January, reports said.
The letter is said to mention a model of centrifuge, called IR2m, which can enrich two or three times faster than the present equipment being used by Tehran, according to the Associated Press.
The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to member states saying Iran had informed the agency of its plans to use the improved machines at its fuel enrichment plant in Natanz, according to a document seen by Reuters.
"The Secretariat of the Agency received a letter from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) dated 23 January 2013 informing the Agency that 'centrifuge machines type IR2m will be used in Unit A-22' at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz," the IAEA communication is reported to say.
The Natanz facility, in central Iran, is at the heart of the country's dispute with the United Nations Security Council.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the European Union's top foreign policy official said she believed that negotiations on the country's nuclear programme would resume shortly.
Catherine Ashton said she was "confident" that there would be a meeting soon.
Reuters) - Iran could be able to make thousands of next-generation uranium enrichment machines, according to a former chief U.N. inspector, adding credibility to Tehran's claims of technical advances in its disputed nuclear program.
As Iran and world powers prepare to resume talks aimed at easing a dispute that has raised fears of a new Middle East war, Tehran announced late last month it planned to install the new machines at its main enrichment plant.
The move underlined Iran's defiance of international demands to scale back the uranium enrichment which Tehran says is for civilian purposes but which could also potentially be used to make material for atom bombs.
Olli Heinonen, until 2010 a deputy director general of the U.N. nuclear agency, said Iran had started purchasing special materials needed for manufacturing new centrifuges years ago when the sanctions on the country were not as strict as now.
It was not clear how many of the upgraded centrifuges Iran aimed to put in place at its enrichment Natanz plant, which is designed for tens of thousands of machines. But the wording of a note by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to member states last week implied it could be as many as 3,000.
"There are reasons to believe that it (Iran) can manufacture those 3,000 IR-2s," Heinonen told Reuters in an email at the weekend, referring to a centrifuge which is estimated to refine uranium several times faster than those Iran operates today.
Iran has for years been trying to develop centrifuges more advanced than the erratic 1970s IR-1 model it now uses. But their introduction for full-scale production has been delayed by technical hurdles, experts and diplomats say. (end snip)
The day before the explosions, the North Koreans had brought in new equipment, described by the source as touch-screen monitors the size of TVs that were installed in the monitoring room and some new parts that were installed in the centrifuges before the start of the enrichment process.
The explosions were reported exclusively by WND Jan. 24, with updates Jan. 27, Jan. 29, Jan. 30 and Jan. 31. WND previously reported the trapped workers included 16 North Koreans: 14 technicians and two military attaches.
The source said many of the centrifuges have been destroyed and rescuers have still not accessed the reserves of the stock of 20-percent enriched uranium to #$%$ the level of radiation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has not visited the site since the explosions despite media rumors, the source said. Because the regime’s Ministry of Defense covers the project at Fordow, officials of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization were allowed to visit it Jan. 5.
In an unusual move, the IAEA issued a brief statement Jan. 29: “We understand that Iran has denied that there has been an incident at Fordow. This is consistent with our observations.”
IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor emailed that response to reporters. However, when pushed by WND, Tudor could neither confirm nor deny the incident had taken place and did not say whether inspectors had visited the site after the explosions, despite media reports.
Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, representatives of the supreme leader and intelligence officers from both the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards have visited parts of the site that have been cleared as secure. A counterintelligence committee has been formed to investigate the incident, which already has been called an act of sabotage, with Israel the prime suspect.
The regime is debating how to explain the incident at a later date depending on the level of destruction, the source said. But because of internal rifts among President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Majlis (parliament), Ahmadinejad or others connected to his team will soon reveal the incident.
Regime media have solely based their denial that the explosions occurred on a statement by White House spokesman Jay Carney, who told reporters Jan. 28: “We have no information to confirm the allegations in the (WND) report, and we do not believe the report is credible.”
However, the Islamic regime’s official news agency, IRNA, in a report Jan. 30, called WND a “mouthpiece of the CIA” and its reporting mere propaganda by the West before the start of renewed negotiations between Iran and the 5-plus-1 powers – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, plus Germany.