A report released today by the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog reveals that that Iran is locking in critical infrastructure necessary to quickly produce weapons-grade nuclear material. The report discloses that Iran has sped up the installation of, among other things, advanced IR-2m centrifuges at its Natanz plant. The technology allows Tehran to increase the pace of enrichment by orders of magnitude over previous technology, and the IAEA indicates that Iran has been enthusiastic about installing them:
One Western diplomat told Agence France Presse the report “will only increase the concerns about Iran.”… The new IAEA report, seen by AFP, said Iran has installed at Natanz almost 700 IR-2m centrifuges and/or empty centrifuge casings, compared with just 180 in February. None was operating, however. The U.S. State Department stated that the latest U.N. report on Iran’s nuclear program marks the “unfortunate milestone” of a decade of Iranian defiance of the body.
The speed at which Iran can enrich its stockpile of nuclear material is critical in evaluating policy debates regarding the risks of negotiations over Tehran’s atomic program. Advocates of ongoing talks have insisted that, should Tehran make the decision to construct a nuclear weapon, the West would have sufficient time to detect the decision and intervene. The development and installation of IR-2m centrifuges threatens to erode that core assumption.
Such considerations were likely behind recent statements by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal to the effect that open-ended negotiations would allow Iran to create a nuclear weapon.