Iran has moved its nuclear programme forward by installing new, more powerful centrifuges to enrich uranium, it was reported on Thursday.

Iran has installed as many as 300 second-generation centrifuges at its nuclear site in Natanz, according to diplomats cited by news agencies in Vienna, the home of the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

Jeffrey Lewis, of the New America Foundation in Washington DC said: “The new centrifuges should be able to spin faster than the ones they have installed so far, but [because they take time to install] probably don’t move up the timeframe for Iran having enough fissile material for a bomb.”

Although Iran insists its nuclear programme is purely peaceful, the UN Security Council has repeatedly demanded that Tehran halt enrichment, which can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons-grade material. Many western intelligence agencies estimate that Iran could have enough fissile material for a bomb between 2010 and 2015.

The new centrifuges, known as IR2s, are believed to be manufactured in Iran and more efficient than the Pakistani centrifuges it has used to date. So far, Iran has installed more than 3,000 Pakistani centrifuges, or P1s, in the main facility in Natanz. A diplomat quoted by Reuters said that some of the 300 new centrifuges were IR2s while some were P1s.

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