Iran has informed the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) of its intent to install two more cascades of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in a move that will further enhance the quantity of the uranium it can produce, the agency said in a recent report.
“Iran indicated it plans to install two additional cascades of 174 IR-2m centrifuges at FEP to enrich … up to 5% U-235. This will bring the total number of cascades of IR-2m centrifuges either planned, being installed, or operating in FEP to six,” the IAEA said in a report to member states obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
The additional cascades will be installed at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) outside Tehran. The facility suffered an explosion last July that Iranian authorities said was likely the result of sabotage.
The installation will follow two other cascades already brought on-line this year at Natanz that have increased Iran’s ability to refine uranium-238 into the more useful uranium-235. While in extremely high purities the radioactive material can be used as the basis for an atomic bomb, at low purity levels Iran is currently producing, a weapon “would not be practicable to design,” according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the US research center responsible for designing many of the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons.
While the US and Israel have claimed Iran is close to building a nuclear weapon, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made clear the country has a religious objection to the weapons and is not pursuing a bomb.