Iran Buys Magnets That DO NOT FIT Its Centrifuges
The report alleges that one of 70 million Iranians once made an inquiry to buy magnets that DO NOT FIT for Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges.
Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets — which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions — from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said. It is unclear whether the attempt succeeded.
The specific dimensions spelled out in the order form match precisely — to a fraction of a millimeter — those of the powerful magnets used in the IR-1, a machine that spins at supersonic speeds to purify uranium gas into an enriched form that can be used in nuclear power plants.
With two magnets needed per machine, the order technically could supply Iran with enough material for 50,000 new gas centrifuges, although some of the magnets would probably have been reserved for repairs and spare parts, said David Albright, ISIS president and a former IAEA inspector.
The magnets are made of an unusual alloy known as barium strontium ferrite and were ordered from a Chinese vendor in late 2011.
The lines set in bold are simply lies which Albright planted with Warrick:
- Barium strontium ferrite magnets are of NOT “unusual alloy”
- The magnets in question are NOT “highly specialized magnets”
- The dimensions of the magnets do NOT “match precisely — to a fraction of a millimeter — those of the powerful magnets used in the IR-1”
- There was NO “purchase order” only an inquiry aka a request for a quote made by who-knows
Barium strontium ferrite magnets are standardized parts used in many industrial products:
Ferrite magnet is made by means of powder metallurgy. Its chemical composition: Ba/Sro-Fe2O3. Hard to be de-magnetized, with good anti-corrosion property. The products are make in the shapes of circular, cylinder, square, tile-type. Widely used for magnetic electro-machinery, loudspeaker products, micro electro-machinery, household appliance, electronic acoustics equipment, copycat, magnetic motor equipment, culture and education tools and magnetic treatment equipment.
Such magnets are classed as “hard ferrite” (pdf). They are made to fit from metal powder because changing their dimensions after the pressing and sinter process is difficult. The material is brittle and dimensional changes can only be applied by diamond grounding.
Hard ferrites are ceramic materials, with the mechanical hardness and brittleness typical for ceramics. A typical way of processing them is by grinding with diamond discs.
Ring, disc, segment, and rectangular magnets are the most common shapes for permanent magnets produced by pressing techniques. More unusual shapes can also be produced. It is better to press the magnets into the desired shape, since subsequent shape changes (adding drill holes, chamfers, notches, indentations, and similar) are labour-intensive and require diamond tools.
Anyone who orders such magnets will make sure that they fit exactly the design dimensions because changing their form would be difficult and expensive.
But the magnets in question do not fit their allegedly designed purpose. According to David Albright’s own paper on the issue (pdf):
The dimensions in the enquiry match almost exactly ring magnets of the IR-1 centrifuge. Moreover, the ring magnets would be ready for use in those centrifuges. The inside diameters and thickness are identical and the outer diameters differ by less than one half percent.
In precise engineering “less than a half percent” is, in most cases, a misfit:
When designing mechanical components, a system of standardized tolerances called International Tolerance grades is used. The standard (size) tolerances are divided into two categories: hole and shaft. They are labelled with a letter (capitals for holes and lowercase for shafts) and a number. For example: H7 (hole tapped hole or nut) and h7 (shaft or bolt). H7/h6 is a very common standard tolerance which gives a rather tight fit, but not so tight that you can’t put the shaft in the hole, or turn the nut on the bolt, by hand.
For a 100mm hole/shaft combination an H7/h6 tolerance specification will allow for the hole to be between 100.000 and 100.035mm and for the shaft to be between 99.978 and 100.000mm. These general machining tolerances, which not even the most precise ones,are far less than half a percent, i.e. 0.500mm in the above case.
If one orders components, as these ring magnets are, for a shaft/hole combination one will specify the exact size and tolerance one would want to have. A half percent deviation from the original specifications would be more than ten times bigger than the usual engineering tolerances for a fit allow for. The size specified in that Iranian’s inquiry would require, as Albright himself admits, a redesign of the IR-1 centrifuges:
Some minor re-design would be necessary of the top end cap and top magnetic bearing of the IR-1 design
Such redesign would of course also require new tests and other expensive measures. Why would Iran request for magnets that do not fit and require a redesign of its centrifuges when it could request the precise dimension needed and avoid an expensive redesign?
As part of his report Albright presents a screenshot from the alleged inquiry but he censored the exact dimensions made in that inquiry. I can not imagine a sound reason to do so but to obfuscate the fact that this new Iran scare story, like other Albright stories, is made up through unsound and unscientific reasoning.
And how, by the way, are we, or Albright, to know that the screenshot he presents is from a genuine Iranian request and not some hoax entry hacked into a Chinese purchase site from a government office in Tel Aviv?
Barium strontium ferrite magnets are standard parts for a wide range of possible end products. There is nothing in the “Iranian” inquiry David Albright is concerned about that lets one presume that these are for centrifuges. The fact that the ordered dimensions are, in engineering terms, far off and would require a redesign of the centrifuges makes it very unlikely that these magnets were sought for that purpose.
His suggestion that these magnets are for centrifuges only shows that ISIS’s David Albright is not-at-all-bright but is carrying water for the neocons who want to instigate a war on Iran.