Reports: Iran installs new centrifuges at underground nuclear plant

Tehran has yet to use the centrifuges, which are designed to produce the highly enriched uranium needed to build an atomic weapon, according to reports by the Jerusalem Post

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However, Western diplomats confirmed on Wednesday they were in place at the underground plan near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom.

The officials, attached to the United Nations inspection team tasked with keeping tabs on the program, claim the Qom plant is still only producing uranium enriched by 20 percent. 

At that level, all the uranium can be used for is energy purposes. Uranium must be enriched by 90 percent for use in a nuclear weapon. 

But the addition of the new centrifuges means that it is likely only a matter of time before Iran is able to obtain weapons-grade fissile materiel, according to one official. 

"It is still going strong. I hear it is unchanged," the official said. "But with installation work going on, at some point there will be an increase."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly claimed the country's nuclear work is strictly geared toward peaceful means. 

But in February, Ahmadinejad announced the country had successfully developed its own nuclear fuel rods and was using them in reactors located in Tehran. 

News of the centrifuges is only the latest indication that Tehran is looking to bolster its nuclear work. The disclosure comes at a particularly interesting time, as Iranian diplomats are preparing to reopen negotiations with the West over its nuclear ambitions. 

Iran and members of the P5+1 group — the five permanent United Nations Security Council members and Germany — are set to meet in Baghdad this month. 

The Baghdad meeting is the second round of nuclear talks between the two groups, which began in April. 

That round of talks in April yielded little progress and has prompted some on Capitol Hill to demand the United States take a harder line against the Iranian program. 

Sen. John McCain said on Monday that he was "not optimistic" that any progress will be made during the talks in Baghdad. 

"We have seen this movie before" the Arizona Republican said, suggesting the United States team up with Israel to draft a new set of "red lines" on Iran's growing nuclear program. 

Those new red lines would be a way to pressure Tehran into opening up those efforts to the international community. It could also theoretically bring an armed conflict with Iran a step closer to reality. 

Red lines are essentially U.S. or Israeli-imposed limits on how far Iran can go in terms of advancing their nuclear program.

Should Iran cross any one of these red lines, it could trigger a military response by either Washington or Tel Aviv. 

A long-standing red line set by the United States is that Tehran cannot move its self-proclaimed nuclear enrichment program into a full-fledged weapons development effort.