Iranian efforts to attain nuclear weapons make headlines once again. The Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing diplomats and experts, that "Iran
recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines," and that this is "a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability."
According to the report, which is based on research conducted by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) one year ago, Iranian agents tried procuring 100,000 ring-shaped magnets from China despite
the sanctions imposed on the country.
While Tehran constantly tries obtaining prohibited components, this case is considered atypical in light of the explicitness and size of the order – "enough magnets in theory to outfit 50,000 new centrifuges, or nearly five times the number that Iran currently operates," the report stated.
David Albright, founder and president of the ISIS and former chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the order indicates that they want to build many more centrifuges.
An Iranian businessman allegedly made the order online, claiming that the magnets are needed for a "large factory implementing a new project." According to the ISIS investigation, the company that placed the order was involved in the past in attempts to attain sensitive technologies and has been blacklisted by Canada.
"They are positioning themselves to make a lot of nuclear progress quickly," the Post quoted a European diplomat with access to sensitive intelligence on Iran’s nuclear facilities as
saying. The same source also said that "each step forward makes the situation potentially more dangerous."
A report by the UN, to be released this week, is expected to document Iran's duplicitous moves. The Islamic Republic is "carefully avoiding provocative behavior even as it quietly prepares to increase production at its two uranium-enrichment plants," said the Post.
Iranian engineers have recently installed 1,000 additional centrifuges in the Natanz plant and this is in addition to the 9,000 already installed there. Moreover, 2,800 additional centrifuges are installed in the underground enrichment plant in Qom,
some of which are inactive.
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