Iran has more than tripled its ability to produce enriched uranium in the last three months, potentially enabling the Islamic regime to develop a nuclear bomb by 2009, much sooner than previously though, a media report said on Tuesday.
Tehran has added 1,000 centrifuges which are used to separate radioactive particles from the raw material, which means the country could have enough material for a nuclear bomb by 2009, ABC Television network reported quoting sources "familiar with the dramatic upgrade."
The sources said the unexpected expansion is taking place at Iran's nuclear enrichment plant outside the city of Natanz, in a hardened facility 70 feet underground.
A spokesperson for the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declined to comment on the report citing the "extreme sensitivity" of the situation with Iran.
Tehran has already declared that its above-ground operations at Natanz have some 320 centrifuges.
The addition of 1,000 new centrifuges, which are not yet operational, means Iran is expanding its enrichment programme at a pace much faster than US intelligence experts had predicted, ABC said.
"If they continue at this pace, and they get the centrifuges to work and actually enrich uranium on a distinct basis, then you're looking at them having, potentially having enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 2009," David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security told the network.
Previous predictions by US intelligence had cited 2015 as the earliest date Iran could develop a nuclear weapon.