Iran is operating 492 new uranium-enriching centrifuges at its main nuclear plant in Natanz, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Friday, quoting an informed source.
"Three cascades of 164 centrifuges from the second series of 3,000 centrifuges are operational in Natanz," the source, who was not named, told the agency.
According to the UN nuclear watchdog, Iran has already installed around 3,000 of the centrifuges at the uranium enrichment plant in central Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Tuesday that Iran was working to install 6,000 more centrifuges at the plant in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions which have called on Tehran to freeze enrichment.
The 492 new centrifuges appear to be part of this new installation. This is the first time Iran has announced how many of the envisaged 6,000 centrifuges it has operational.
Earlier Friday, Muhammad Saidi, deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization rejected claims suggesting his country has encountered difficulties in its nuclear program, saying "we have no technical problems in adding new centrifuges… we are determined to increase their quantity and quality."
Saidi went on to tell IRNA that no deadline has been put on the Iranian nuclear program, mainly because nuclear technology around the world is developing on a daily basis.
The West is following Iran's nuclear effort with a measure of concern, fearing it may be secretly enriching uranium for military use – high-grade uranium can be used in atom bombs.
Tehran has continuously rejected these claims, saying its nuclear program is for peace purposes only – namely alternative energy and scientific research.
Iran has filed official reports with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), saying it is in possession of low-grade uranium only, needed to maintain operational reactors.
Thursday saw the Iranian news agency Fars quote Ahmadinejad as saying "our enemies should know that threats, sanctions and political and economical pressures are futile and will not make us back down." He continuously referred to the UN resolutions on Iran as "pieces of paper".