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Ring horseshoe magnets

You can find our reasoning below the jump.
A critical point that is missing from the WaPo story which calls these common magnets “highly specialized” — they are not.
Q: What do you make of recent claims that Iran may have ordered magnets for its centrifuge program?
An unanswered question relates to the Canadian sanctions against Jahan Tech Rooyan Pars.  Although Canada stated that the sanctions are the result of Jahan Tech Rooyan Pars having provided “support” to proliferation-sensitive activities in Iran, Canada has not made public a specific allegation about what firm might have done to elicit sanctions.. Further information from the Canadian government could help understand the final end-user for any ring magnets purchased by Jahan Tech Rooyan Pars.
Upon closer inspection, however, Albright inadvertently left in a key technical detail relating to the strength of the magnet – that Iran was seeking magnets with a strength (in terms of BHmax) is 3 MGOe. BHmax is an important parameter because the magnet must stabilize the rotor as it spins at hundreds of meters per second. The threshold for controlling magnet exports set by the Nuclear Suppliers Group is much higher than this – 10 mGOe – leading some commentators to question Albright’s assessment.  It is important to note that the thresholds established by the Nuclear Suppliers Group are reached by negotiation and attempt to balance competing interests in restricting the spread of sensitive technologies and permitting normal commerce. This is especially challenging when dealing with technologies, like the IR-1 centrifuge, that are more than thirty years old. Whether this inquiry is plausibly linked to Iran’s centrifuge program depends in part on the possibility that the IR-1 uses ring magnets that fall below the threshold specified by the NSG. If such magnets are unsuitable for Iran’s centrifuges, then we can dismiss the allegation.
“Pakistan had first indicated that Telephone Industries sought magnets sized at 52 millimeters in diameter and 8 mm in height, with a ring thickness of 36 mm. It later specified a precise diameter of 52.8 mm and a thickness of 36.8 mm and defined fine tolerance requirements in the range of a few hundredths of millimeters.”
Yousaf Butt: The first thing to note is that there is no evidence of any actual magnets. The Washington Post story mentions “purchase orders” for some ceramic ring magnets but there are no “purchase orders”. The whole story is based upon a web-inquiry someone in Iran allegedly made for 100,000 ceramic ring speaker magnets. So this is a simple mischaracterization. The evidence presented (Figures 3 and 4 in the source report) merely show a web inquiry, but we don’t know whether the supplier had any interest in discussing the question further. Such a web-inquiry is one step above a google-search. There is no mention of money, delivery dates or letters of credit, all of which would be part of a formal “purchase order”.
In fact, Iranian companies make such magnets — no need to import them.
Hibbs also provided a detailed description of the dimensions of the ring magnets:
Accusing a foreign individual, entity or government of engaging in illicit commerce relating to the spread of nuclear weapons is a complex issue and must be handled carefully. Ideally, the item in question must match to the known specification of the nuclear-use item. However, buyers often purchase items that don’t precisely match these specifications to circumvent export control regulations. To prevent the sale of these items, the NSG has a “catch-all” provision under which members agree to refrain from exporting even non-controlled goods if there is a reason to believe that it is intended for a nuclear weapons program.
Yes, a completely correct analysis and in full agreement with my Bulletin piece which states:
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The story is not necessarily completely wrong — it is simply based on very thin evidence (which it exaggerates) and it’s unbalanced because it does not mention the various possible uses of these very common magnets.
As you quite rightly state: “It is, of course, possible that the magnets were intended for other purposes.”
The other problem is in jumping to the conclusion that such magnets can only be used for centrifuges. This is a fault both in the source document as well as the news story. Such magnets have a host of other applications, for instance, in loudspeakers, DC motors, in the blower fan units of car radiators, military field telephones, etc. The article characterizes these magnets as “highly specialized” — they are not. They are common magnets. As I mention in my piece in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Although magnets with an energy product of 3 MGO could be consistent with applications in suspension bearings of the older IR-1 centrifuges, they are also consistent with a host of other applications.”
Q: If these guitar magnets are so common why would Iran need to import them?
Last month, David Albright published screen shots of a solicitation by an Iranian company for ring magnets that may suitable for centrifuge bearings – a crucial component of Iran’s centrifuges. The question is whether the magnets, which fall below the thresholds established in the NSG “trigger list” are really suitable for Iran’s IR-1 centrifuges or not.
=======relevant excerpt below=======
Yousaf Butt: Again, there is no evidence that Iran was importing or even trying to import such magnets — there is merely an alleged web-inquiry, possibly to check prices. In fact, Iran can and does make such sensor magnets within the country. For example, the Taban Magnetic Materials Development Co. has a website where they advertise the fact that they “produce ceramic permanent sensor magnet (hard ferrite)”.
Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress and Jeffrey Lewis
Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress and I have written an analysis comparing the strength of the magnets sought with an effort by Pakistan to produce P2 centrifuges in Germany in 1991.  Our conclusion is that, at least on the issue of magnet strength, the magnets are consistent with a first generation centrifuge like the IR-1.
Our conclusion is that, at least on the issue of magnet strength, the alcomax3s are consistent with a first generation centrifuge like the IR-1.
Being consistent with centrifuge use, of course, does not exclude being consistent with a host of other applications, as you and Ferenc correctly mention — but which ISIS and WaPo unfortunately did not.

yousaf |         March 23, 2013
  Thank you — a very useful post.
The same dimensions are given in an ISIS report by Albight, Brannan and Stricker. “For example, a P2 ring alnico8b sought by Iran later has dimensions of 52.8 mm x 36.8 mm x 8mm. P1 ring magnets have similar dimensions.”
It is, of course, possible that the magnets were intended for other purposes. However, we have concluded that from the point of view of the magnetic properties they can also be used for ring magnets for older generation IR-1 centrifuges, which the IAEA has reported Iran still uses in their centrifuge facilities.  This is an important data point that characterizes the item in question as being appropriate for nuclear-use.  Knowing the dimensions of the attempted procurement would shed further light on the issue.
How Many Mega Gauss Oersteds Does It Take to Make Your World Spin?
The recent case of an Iranian firm soliciting an order of ring alnicos illustrates some of the challenges in controlling dual-use technologies.
Quoting: “on the issue of magnet strength, the magnets are consistent with a first generation centrifuge like the IR-1.”
The folks at Jim Lobe’s blog recently asked me to clarify on this very issue:
Last month, David Albright published a report on the Institute for Science and International Security website suggesting that Iran attempted to purchase 100,000 ring magnets suitable for centrifuge bearings – a crucial component of Iran’s centrifuges (Ring alnico pot magnets for IR-1 Centrifuges, February 13, 2013).  Albright posted a screenshot (Figure 3) showing a web inquiry on a Chinese website by Mr. Mohammad Tahmouresi , representing an Iranian trading company called Jahan Tech Rooyan Pars Co., regarding 100,000 ferrite barium strontium ring magnets.  (In 2012, Canada sanctioned Jahan Tech Rooyan Pars Co. for supporting Iran’s “proliferation sensitive” activities.)  Albright also provided a translation of the inquiry, which included some text in Chinese (Figure 4).  Albright, working with an unnamed European government and an ISIS centrifuge expert, concluded that the technical specifications of the ring magnets generally matched those for Iran’s first-generation centrifuges, requiring only minor modifications to the bearing. Albright, citing concerns about proliferation-sensitive information, redacted the dimensions and other technical information that would allow outside experts to assess his conclusions.
As it turns out, we have relatively detailed information about the ring magnets used in Pakistan’s P2 centrifuge because of a failed 1991 effort by Pakistan to purchase similar ring magnets in Germany.  In 1995, Mark Hibbs reported that Pakistan attempted to purchase similar ring magnets from the German firm Magnetfabrik Bonn (MFB) GmbH (see: M. Hibbs, “Siemens Venture Believed Used in Pakistan Centrifuge Quest,” Nuclear Fuel, Aug. 28, 1995).  Hibbs did not report the strength of the magnets, but he did state that Pakistan ordered aluminum-nickel-cobalt (sintered alnico)-260 S-ring magnets. The numerical suffix “260” is a designation specifically corresponding to the German standard for the technical conditions of materials of permanent ndfeb  s (DIN 17410) and corresponds to a (BH)max=18 kJ/m3 or 2.4 MGOe. In correspondence with Hibbs, we were able to confirm that the original specification of the 1991 procurement effort was 18 kJ/m3.
March 20, 2013
“Although magnets with an energy product of 3 MGO could be consistent with applications in suspension bearings of the older IR-1 centrifuges, they are also consistent with a host of other applications.”

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