Iran installs advanced centrifuges at main uranium enrichment plant

Iran recently began installing advanced centrifuges at Natanz, its main uranium enrichment plant, in an effort to speed up nuclear work, according to a U.N. nuclear watchdog report on Thursday.

The deployment of the centrifuges demonstrates Iran's continued refusal to bow to Western pressure to curb its nuclear program. The confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said that the 180 so-called IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings were not yet operational, Reuters reports.

If the machines are launched successfully, they could allow Iran to significantly speed up its accumulation of material to be used for a nuclear weapon. Iran claims it is refining uranium only for peaceful purposes of energy use.

Iran also began testing new centrifuge models, the IR-6 and IR6s, at a research and development facility. Centrifuges spin at supersonic speed to increase the fissile isotope ratio in uranium.

The IAEA report said that Iran increased its stockpile to 167 kilograms of 20 percent uranium. Refined uranium can fuel nuclear power plants or provide the core of an atomic bomb. Approximately 240 to 250 kilograms of 90 percent enriched uranium are required for one atomic bomb if it's refined to a high degree.

Six world powers will meet with Iran for negotiations on February 26 in Kazakhstan. Vincent Floreani, a spokesman for the French deputy foreign ministry, said that the powers were ready to make Iran a new offer, Reuters reports.

"We will make a new offer that will have significant new elements," Floreani said, according to Reuters. "The to begin gradually with confidence-building measures. We want a real exchange that will lead to concrete results."