Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 14, 2013

Iran Buys Magnets That DO NOT FIT Its Centrifuges

The paranoid David Albright of ISIS, the Institute of Scary Iran Stories (formerly the Institute of Scary Iraq Stories), has issued a new report.

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.

The Washington Post's Joby Warrick, one of Albright's favorite stenographers, took notes:

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.

Posted by b on February 14, 2013 at 8:31 UTC | Permalink


Nice analysis b.

Personally I dont think "David is not-at-All-Bright", he is just "David to be payed All-Right".

Posted by: Harry | Feb 14 2013 9:15 utc | 1

RT's CrossTalk showed an excellent debate on Iran/US relations and the nuclear program early this morning.

Posted by: Amar | Feb 14 2013 10:43 utc | 2

This is probably old-hat to you all ... David Albright

David Albright is the chairperson of ISIS. He is involved in the Iraq Policy Information Project, the National Committee on North Korea and the Task Force on US Korea Policy. Albright is also a citizen of Israel and owns a condominium in Haifa.

Neither the NYTimes nor the Washington Post has a stitch left in the figleaf over their respective tumescences over war and neo-imperialism. I rarely even follow links back there anymore. I used to read the NYTimes religiously ... until Wen Ho Lee. Then it all unwound. Not that the elder Sulzberger was much better, just a more credible propagandist, somehow. I never followed the Washington Post. Looks like I never will.

The problem is no one cares anymore back in USSA. At least it doesn't seem so.

Posted by: john francis lee | Feb 14 2013 11:42 utc | 3

b: Barium strontium ferrite magnets are of NOT "unusual alloy".

It sort of is when you think about it.

On a normal day, you either pick between barium-ferrite and strontium-ferrite, depending on the characteristic properties you're looking for, you don't choose to make a mixture of both. For their intended use in Natanz, I'm guessing an alloy of the two wouldn't exactly be thermodynamically favorable or even necessary, as the magnets currently in use are of barium-ferrite.

It could have been a typo or simply a misunderstanding on Tahmouresis behalf, I wonder why Albright isn't mentioning it in his assessment. I suppose "highly specialized magnets" and "unusual alloys" just sounds too serious and nefarious to pass up on.

Also, why would you send out an order for something you're allegedly capable of manufacturing yourself?

The report Thursday on Iran's nuclear program claims several parts of nuclear centrifuges are manufactured at the TABA site including centrifuge casings, composite tubes, centrifuge magnets and molecular pumps at the secret location. Since centrifuges are a vital component of uranium enrichment, they have been a focal point in the monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program.

“This is old equipment that was originally put under seal by the IAEA and which the Iranians took out from under seal and hid in this location adding even more equipment to it,” Bolton said. “My guess would be this is the facility that continues to produce the first-generation centrifuges.”

Why Albright isn't factoring any of this in his assessment is anybody's guess.

Posted by: never mind | Feb 14 2013 12:05 utc | 4

This is, of course, bullsh*t to the square.

While producing such magnets isn't something granny could do in her kitchen pretty every halfway modern nation can do it. Also tolerances above 50 um (micrometer) are no problem but common standard in quite many industrial processes.

But even ignoring this, not-at-all-Bright exposes the fact he's lying by blabbering about one half of a percent. And this while he *knows* the exact measures (but has hidden them).

Also, as b has indicated, a certain (supposedly high) level of tolerance does not at all indicate for what purpose a part will be used. The reason is simple: Precision is not always and only required technically but can as well be - and often is - a requirement of manufacturing. Mass producing even a low-tech product using parts with wide tolerances can quickly become a nightmare. Just ask an industrial engineer ...

The story is particularly incredible and even ridiculous because it concerns devices that by their very nature are either ultra mass-products made and sold in the zillions or else made to specification. If it's the former, there are no news at all; if it's the latter then no sane engineer would specify an unusually high (bad) tolerance for the *outer* diameter, i.e. quite probably the largest dimension of the part, of 0.5%.
This is even more obvious considering that the very process (the form for baking, the heat, etc.) defines/restricts the tolerances.

Think: If a single production process doesn't offer better than 0.5% then *every* dimension of a given product will be in that range. If a certain production process (like baking a ceramics part) offers a tolerance - which is realistic - of 0.03% (to stay with percents for this discussion) then why on earth would every dimension be of high precision except one?

One might as well imagine not-at-All-Bright in mass-murder-moms kitchen gazing at a pot of cooking water, remarking "Look, mom, over there in the pot is a spot that's 30 Centigrades below the rest of the (cooking) water!"

On a more comical note I should disclose that actually I like to read not-at-all-Brights super-duper-dark "The Iranians are just about to destroy and take over the world!" stories. Not just because it's a funny read but also because I imagine the israeli bosses e.g. in mossad turning their eyes and calling Mrs. albright once again "Madame, with all due respect you earned at your time, don't you think it's about time to finally put your son in responsible hands? We would even pay for the institution because, frankly, Madame, your boy is a bomb waiting to go off in the wrong direction"

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Feb 14 2013 13:23 utc | 5

Glad to see emptywheel and moonofalabama connect. Hope this connects with the
the Leverett's "Race for Iran" Blog, sampole from almost two years ago re Jody Warrick


where it was noted that:

The photos on which the expert group cited by Warrick based their technical analysis of the new centrifuge—David Albright’s Institute for Science and International Security—were obtained from Iranian state media, not from a clandestine source.

Posted by: erichwwk | Feb 14 2013 14:14 utc | 6

Also note that no real magnets are involved here: alls we have is a written order in curious comical English ("Welcome-to-America style").

Now if you are a motherfucking front company for the IRI's secret enrichment program, will you send off a note to China introducing your comapany AND put in that you need 100,000 magnets, please to honor request China?

No what you do, is have your agent contact on a secure phone line various campanies that can source the parts -- NOT WRITTEN for fucks sake.

And anyway as never mind says above they can make them in-house so why get Jackie motherfucking Chan all involved in a written request?

THANK YOU b!!!!!

Posted by: Clint | Feb 14 2013 17:09 utc | 7

No what you do, is have your agent contact on a secure phone line various campanies that can source the parts -- NOT WRITTEN for fucks sake.

Majority of the USAians and a large % of Europeans think that Iran is a backward middle east country and that's why they can get away with it.

Posted by: hans | Feb 14 2013 17:40 utc | 8

Those Israeli liars are really pathetic and obviously criminal. A country of criminals. Why do people allow them to live in, or even visit their countries?

Posted by: вот так | Feb 14 2013 19:37 utc | 9

Hello Iran!!!!!! So good to see you --- you may purchase very very nice Chinese ring magnet here:

Oh! look -- it is for motherfucking LOUDSPEAKER.

For cunts' sake -- do we have any investigative journalists left?

Posted by: clint | Feb 14 2013 23:18 utc | 10

@ clint [#10],

Q: -- do we have any investigative journalists left?

R: Yes, but he's quite busy at the moment. The news doesn't necessarily have to be true, so, we dish 'Propaganda' and label it Public Relations. Rumsfeld has/had the same approach to things he has to deal with [like aspartame or Iraqi WMD that can be found North, East, South and West from Baghdad].

Posted by: Daniel Rich | Feb 15 2013 0:24 utc | 11

Totally off topic:

Meteorite hits Russian Urals: Fireball explosion wreaks havoc, up to 500 injured (PHOTOS, VIDEO). According to unconfirmed reports, the meteorite was intercepted by an air defense unit at the Urzhumka settlement near Chelyabinsk. A missile salvo blew the meteorite to pieces at an altitude of 20 kilometers, local newspaper Znak reports quoting a source in the military. Has anyone confirmation from other sources?

Posted by: Daniel Rich | Feb 15 2013 10:11 utc | 12

@DR - air defense
1. unlikely that there is air defense on alarm in that area. Around Moscow yes but not a thousand miles south east of it.
2. A meteorite has an extreme high speed. I would be astonished if one of the typical anti-air missiles could hit it.

Posted by: b | Feb 15 2013 16:18 utc | 13

b (13)

Actually Chelyabinsk is a major russian city, a major industrial area and still of military importance.

To assume that there are major AD installation is not unreasonable.

Also a meteor usually has a very high velocity it also has a very simple rather straight trajectory that can be quite well computed that is, it is very well feasible to employ AD systems against it.

While I do not yet have any sources (other than the one mentioned here) for a military AD operation there is quite a lot of information about more general military involvement. There has been, for instance, mentioned that the military had found the first impact site and a ca. 20 feet crater.

One should also not forget that *any* unregistered object entering russian airspace falls within military duties. A military AD station will hardly say "Yeah, that must be a comet, so don't care" but it will follow certain procedure when an unidentified or unregistered object enters its zone of responsability.

Actually the they-shot-at-it story sounds quite reasonable to me. Quite simply because one large object (with high speed) will create way more - and qualitatively - heavier damage than many small ones. While small ones might have effects roughly similar to a bomb (e.g. destroying a building) a big one might actually have the effect of an earthquake and create devastation (-> "Tunguska").

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Feb 15 2013 17:59 utc | 14

B is right. AA missiles don't explode their target, they pepper them with shrapnel. No AA missile could much affect an incoming meteorite. The glow one sees in the video is the heat generated by the speed of the meteorite passing through the atmosphere. The heat builds up and causes a break up of the body of the meteorite. That causes the flashing, as parts of the meteorite break away from the main body and vapourise. I posted a VOR earlier in the Open Thread that showed better video.

This link has many articles, photos and a couple of videos of the meteor. The first video is quite spectacular.

S Urals meteorite stirs old concerns

The blast force of was quite powerful, in one of the articles is a photo of a window shattered by it and one can see the window frame was pushed in as well as the glass being shattered.

Posted by: вот так | Feb 15 2013 19:12 utc | 15

Bot Tak

This does not contradict what I wrote.

And no, AA missiles do not always operate in "shrapnel mode" (but many do, indeed). Principally AA missiles can do what any missile can do: Bring a payload near or to the target, whatever that payload is. Sometimes it's shrapnel like, sometimes more bomb like and there are other technologies, too.

You are right though in the core point, remarking/assuming(?) that the Russian did *not* fire off AA missiles towards that meteor, and there seems not to have been a need to. Actually it seems that the meteor broke into pieces quite early by itself in high altitude (I read something about 30 - 50km).

The most important thing right now (in my minds eye) is anyway (to hope) that as few as possible Russians had to suffer damage to their houses and belongings or, worse, to themselves.

In case there are Russians of that area here: I hope the very best for you and wish you a good and quick recovery!

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Feb 15 2013 19:51 utc | 16

P.S. Thanks for the link. seems to be a rather good site anyway ;)

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Feb 15 2013 19:53 utc | 17

Report of meteor crash in Cuba today.

Not much coverage so far, but last comment I saw at one site said it had made Italian TV news.

Posted by: jawbone | Feb 16 2013 0:44 utc | 18

From the Voice of Russia site, a charming tale of "cat guards" at The Hermitage museum. Since the time of Peter I in 1764. They were wiped out during the siege of Leningrad.

Posted by: jawbone | Feb 16 2013 1:00 utc | 19

One further item of note. Even if Iran were building more centrifuges, this is not new news--they've done it before. Their rate of enrichment is actually pretty inefficient by Western standards, so it would make sense to add machines. Most importantly, it's how those machines are connected to each other that really matters when distinguishing between enriching for reactor fuel and for bomb fuel. The cascades for each have to be differently arranged. That's something that any IAEA inspector is going to notice right away, and the IAEA has never even suggested that any Iranian cascade array has been configured for bomb fuel.

Albright is showing himself to be a professional alarmist.

Posted by: montag | Feb 17 2013 0:39 utc | 20

Times of India: Global watchdog sees Chennai’s tiny shop as supplier to Iran’s nuclear programme

CHENNAI/NEW DELHI: A tiny firm in a dark alley in Chennai's electronic spare parts hub on Meeran Sahib Street has been unwittingly catapulted into the midst of a suspected nuclear smuggling operation. A reputed proliferation watchdog has cited the company as a likely supplier to Iran's nuclear programme.

Ferrito Plastronics, a modest establishment with a reported turnover of Rs 2 crore-Rs 5 crore, has found a mention in a report published by the Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS) for an enquiry of one lakh ring magnets posted on a Chinese commercial website by an Iranian trading firm, Jahan Tech Rooyan Pars.

The Chennai firm does supply magnets. But these, avers company proprietor Bala Subramanian, are the ones used in loudspeakers, coils and medical equipment. Besides these, there are decorative magnets for fridges, Subramanian's shop assistant displayed to TOI.
Although the ISIS report does not offer any evidence to show Ferrito Plastronics ever supplied to the Iranian company or showed any interest in the query for ring magnets, it has mentioned the Chennai firm in the context of how dubious companies floated by Iran use certain channels to procure nuclear equipment from different sources while routing supplies through China, using its lax trade controls.
Claiming that his company's monthly turnover was "a mere Rs 1 lakh", Subramanian said. "The magnets we deal with are used in almirahs, loud speakers and in the field of medical therapy. Why should I be hounded when I have committed no crime?"

It seems Albright's phantasies are harassing all kinds of people down to a poor shopkeeper in Chennai.

Posted by: b | Feb 17 2013 19:20 utc | 21

Bloomberg: Iran’s Nuclear-Technology Gains Suggest Sanctions Are Backfiring

“The serious consequence of all of these sanctions are that you drive the indigenous production of these parts,” Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, a physicist at the Monterrey, California- based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, wrote in response to questions. “This means the proliferator learns more about the technology and so now they don’t only know how to produce the parts, but they could also sell them to other states.”

Posted by: b | Feb 17 2013 19:22 utc | 22

I think David Albright is actually scared of technology himself and does not understand much of it (He does not have a PhD) -- and cannot allow brown people like them I-ranians to get magnets, so he demonizes anything that can have nu-CU-lar applications.

He is the G. W. Bush of technology.

Posted by: clint | Feb 18 2013 3:05 utc | 23

From one Indian author: How not do Journalism: Iran Ring Magnets, a Chennai Trader and a Chinese Website

Times of India has carried in its front page a report that ISIS --“global watchdog” -- has linked a Chennai based company, an Iranian company and a Chinese commercial website in trying procure ring magnets for centrifuges in Iran.

There are three major problems with the story. The ring magnets of the type that ISIS claims Iran is trying to smuggle from China or India is widely used in various devices; nor does the dimensions – contrary to ISS claims -- match the IR-1centrifuge requirement . The second is that ISIS is not a globally recognised institution but is a virtual one man show of David Albright. After floating scary Iraq stories, he has now become the main purveyor of dubious claims about Iran. The third is that so-called attempt of smuggling contraband nuclear equipment is nothing but an innocuous electronic enquiry in 2011 on a commercial Chinese web site, set-up for facilitating contacts between suppliers and buyers.

Posted by: b | Feb 19 2013 5:33 utc | 24

David Albright questioned and uses Scott Ritter to answer.

Posted by: Daniel Rich | Feb 19 2013 6:15 utc | 25

check oout bulletin article devasting to WaPo:

Posted by: Clint | Feb 21 2013 18:18 utc | 26

Moreover, Iran manufactures its own ferrite magnets, so why make a big fuss by (allegedly) importing it? But doesn't it get so damn tedious, the lies roll out, boilerplate… It seems nothing can stop this unholy alliance of big capital, the political class and the corporate/state media.

It doesn't matter that the lie is revealed, after the fact. The lies mount up. There will be no headlines that informs us that the host of 'objective' journalism is nothing but a pack of lies. No mea culpas from the media professionals, who are firmly a part of the imperial (war) machine; one could say, they are the most important part of the imperial war machine. For without the support (or acquiescence) of us imperial citizens things I think, would be somewhat different.

Posted by: William Bowles | Feb 21 2013 19:26 utc | 27

The western oligarchs learned how powerful the media could be back in the 19th century, and from that time on, they have used the media to further their own control over society.

Posted by: вот так | Feb 21 2013 22:20 utc | 28

Prof. Yousaf Butt writes in the (premier) Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

Iran centrifuge magnet story technically questionable

There are serious deficiencies in both the Washington Post story and the assertions in the ISIS report. Given that issues of war and peace may hang on the veracity of such claims, the assertions warrant careful scrutiny.

The magnets in question have many uses besides centrifuges and are not only, as Warrick describes them, "highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines." Such ceramic ring magnets are everyday items and have been used in loudspeakers, for example, for more than half a century. The ISIS report neglects to explain the many other applications for such ceramic ring magnets and jumps to the conclusion that the inquiry is surely related to Iran's nuclear program. Why ISIS does not offer alternate and more plausible applications of these unspecialized magnets is a puzzle. Such magnets are used in a variety of electronic equipment. For instance, one vendor outlines some of the various possible uses in speakers, direct current brushless motors, and magnetic resonance imaging equipment.

Posted by: b | Feb 22 2013 5:52 utc | 29

The Israeli-American attempts to prevent westerners and Asians from accessing Iranian media, and views, hit a snag:

GlobeCast shrugs off Eutelsat call to take Iran channels off air

"GlobeCast satellite provider has refused a request by European satellite provider Eutelsat to stop broadcasting Iranian channels, saying the demand is devoid of proper legal reasoning.

In recent months, Eutelsat’s Israeli-French CEO Michel De Rosen has stepped up his restrictive campaign by appealing to major satellite providers in Europe and Asia to silence Iranian media."

Posted by: вот так | Feb 28 2013 17:11 utc | 30

David has accepted the political job of defaming Iranians in charge of the country and get paid for it handsomely. He tries, like many inspectors, give his reports the veneer of scientific and hence credible commdity with monetary value to the DOd, DOS, and the space contractors.

Posted by: Ardeshir Ommani | Mar 13 2013 10:56 utc | 31

The comments to this entry are closed.