Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards elite unit
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard mark the 34th anniversary of the return from exile of the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini. Photo by AFP
Text size
AP
Iran’s Natanz reactor. Photo by AP

The White House said on Thursday that Iran's installation of advanced uranium enrichment machines would be a "provocative step" in further violation of United Nations resolutions against Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran, in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this month, said it would use the new centrifuges - a model called IR2m - at a unit in the Natanz plant where Iran is enriching uranium to a fissile concentration of up to five percent, according to an IAEA communication to member states seen by Reuters.

"The Secretariat of the Agency received a letter from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) dated 23 January 2013 informing the Agency that 'centrifuge machines type IR2m will be used in Unit A-22' at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz," the IAEA communication said.

"This does not come as a surprise," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. He said the introduction of new centrifuges would result in Iran's further isolation by the international community.

Nuclear expert Mark Fitzpatrick, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank, said that employing the new centrifuges at Natanz could be "a most unfortunate game changer," depending on the numbers.

Also on Thursday, Chuck Hagel, expected to be U.S. President Barack Obama's next defense secretary, told a skeptical Senate panel considering his nomination that he favors an American policy of prevention in Iran, not containment.