Iran plans to place a quantity of advanced IR-2M uranium enrichment centrifuges in the main production area of its Natanz complex, the International Atomic Energy Agency quoted the nation as saying last week.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog on Tuesday requested various specifics about the scheduled action revealed on Jan. 23 by the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, according to an IAEA statement to the member nations reported by Reuters on Thursday. It was uncertain how many machines are slated for installation in Unit A-22 of the Natanz site; one unit can hold in excess of 3,000 devices.
Iran's uranium enrichment program has been subject to international controversy because it could generate nuclear-bomb material, but Tehran maintains its atomic endeavors are directed strictly toward civilian ends.
"Using the IR-2M in large numbers would enable Iran to enrich uranium much faster," former U.S. State Department analyst Mark Fitzpatrick said.
Iran has yet to begin installing the new centrifuges, and it would require weeks or months to make them operational, a high-level envoy told the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, multilateral atomic discussions with Iran appear likely to restart in the near future, the Associated Press quoted European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton as saying on Thursday. Senior-level Iranian diplomats last year held three rounds of negotiations on their nation's nuclear program with counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his nation "along with the other U.N. Security Council members have called upon the Iranians to freeze enrichment work during negotiations," Interfax reported on Thursday.
Iran's top diplomat said the Security Council's five permanent member nations and Germany had ruled out Cairo as a potential site for new nuclear negotiations, Trend News reported on Wednesday.
"It is the P-5+1 who is backing down from talks, not Iran," Iran's Mehr News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.