News wires yesterday widely reported on the installation of the new IR-2 centrifuges at Natanz. Testing of IR-2’s started in early February and if the news of their installations is accurate, the quality tests must have been successful.
IR-2 centrifuges are the homemade version of the advanced P-2 centrifuges whose design Iran had obtained from Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan. The P-2 can enrich uranium gas up to three times faster than the P-1, the present workhorse of Iran’s enrichment program (there are 3,000 P-1 centrifuges currently in operation at Natanz).
Until now, Iran had difficulty to import special steel rotors needed to build the P-2’s. It appears that Iran has successfully replaced the steel rotors with rotor tubes made of carbon fiber. The resulting machine is now called IR-2.
The installation of IR-2 centrifuges at Natanz indicates that Iran is entering an advanced stage of nuclear development. The new machines will be on display on 8 April, a date Iran has marked as National Nuclear Technology Day. President Ahmadinejad is expected to announce “significant achievement” in the country’s nuclear program.