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Tuesday
Nov082011

Iran Feature: Did Unnamed Officials Use the Media to Turn Nanodiamonds into Nuclear Bombs?

See also Iran Snap Analysis: The IAEA Nuclear Report --- Serious, But Not That Serious....
Iran Special: "Activities Relevant to the Development of a Nuclear Explosive Device" --- Text of IAEA Report


For Nanodiamonds or a Nuclear Device?A follow-up to our analysis on Monday, expressing concern that US journalists, fed "information" by unnamed officials, were hyping the Iran threat to the point of justifying a military attack upon Tehran....

Amongst the spin laid out for journalists, with The Washington Post taking the lead (and getting a lot of short-term glory from other media for the article), was the supposed revelation that a "foreign scientist" had brought Iran to the point of nuclear weapons capability:

Creating [an R265 generator to trigger a nuclear chain reaction] is a formidable technical challenge, and Iran needed outside assistance in designing the generator and testing its performance....

According to the intelligence provided to the IAEA, key assistance in both areas was provided by Vyacheslav Danilenko, a former Soviet nuclear scientist who was contracted in the mid-1990s by Iran’s Physics Research Center, a facility linked to the country’s nuclear program. Documents provided to the U.N. officials showed that Danilenko offered assistance to the Iranians over at least five years, giving lectures and sharing research papers on developing and testing an explosives package that the Iranians apparently incorporated into their warhead design, according to two officials with access to the IAEA’s confidential files.

Julian Borger of The Guardian then came forth to offer support:

In [a] 2009 article, I reported that the IAEA was investigating the role of a 'Russian weapons expert" in developing this device. [Danilenko's] was the name I was given in 2009, but on condition I not use it, and as I was unable to track him down to hear his version, I didn't. The Washington Post quotes unnamed officials as saying Danilenko had insisted he had been under the impression he was providing assistance for civilian engineering projects.

To be fair, Borger's overall article is a model of caution compared to the sensational reporting elsewhere: "There is no evidence that Iran has decided to make a nuclear weapon, just that it appears to looking at the technical options should it one day make that decision". Howedver, it now appears he might have found value in investigating that phrase "assistance for civilian engineering projects" as well as highlighting the exclusive --- handed to him by unnamed officials --- that he could not reveal in 2009

That investigation comes instead from the blog Moon of Alabama....

On "Nuclear Iran" Allegations: Nanodiamonds Ain't Nuclear Bombs

Dr. Vyacheslav Danilenko is a well known Ukrainian (“former Soviet”) scientist. But his specialties are not “weapon” or “nuclear” science, indeed there seems to be nothing to support that claim, but the production of nanodiamonds via detonations. According to the history of detonation nanodiamonds he describes in chapter 10 of Ultrananocrystalline Diamond –-- Synthesis, Properties, and Applications, he has worked in that field since 1962, invented new methods used in the process and is related with Alit, an Ukrainian company that produces nanodiamonds.

Very small diamonds are useful for many purposes, like polishing optics or PC hard disks. That is why, for example, Drexel University in Philadelphia invited Danilenko for a talk at its Nanotechnology Institute:

On January 29, the AJ Drexel Nanotechnology Institute sponsored a Nanodiamond Lecture, “Nanodiamonds: Reactor Design and Synthesis,” by noted Ukrainian scientist Dr. Vyacheslav Danilenko. Dr. Danilenko was among the first to demonstrate detonation synthesis of diamonds and has more than 30 years experience in the design of reactors for the synthesis of nanodiamonds.

Some years ago Iran launched a big Nano Technology Initiative which includes Iranian research on detonation nanodiamonds. Iran is officially planning to produce them on industrial scale. It holds regular international conferences and invites experts on nanotechnology from all over the world. It is quite likely that famous international scientists in that field, like Dr. Danilenko, have been invited, gave talks in Iran and cooperate with its scientists.

Producing nanodiamonds via detonations uses large confined containers with water cooling, for which Danilenko seems to have a patent. The Ukrainian company he works with, Alit, shows such a detonation chamber on its webpage as does the picture above from the French-German nano-research company ISL. The detonation nanodiamond explanation thereby also fits with another allegation from the IAEA report: "The Associated Press reported that U.N. officials have acquired satellite photos of a bus-size steel container used by Iran for some of the explosives testing."

....Iran having a "bus-size steel container" for explosive testing and research cooperation with Danilenko both fit very well with Iran's plans for nanodiamond production. They do not fit well with anything nuclear.

In his power-point presentation on detonation nanodiamonds on a industrial scale Danilenko recommends:

Use for industrial production of DND:

• charges ≥ 20 kg, explosion under water in close pool (in heavy metal cover), laser initiation;
• utilization of old ammunition under water in close pool;

Use of old ammunition in a closed water pool? Does that sound sound like something that "the Iranians apparently incorporated into their warhead design" as WaPo alleges? On what actual facts is that "apparently" innuendo based on? WaPo doesn't say anything about that.But how or why should the production of detonation nanodiamonds relate to nuclear bombs at all? Why would someone even think they are related?

It may be because both use precisely timed detonations. But they do so on a very different scales and in very different conditions. A spherical implosion device for a nuclear weapon uses precisely timed detonations but it doesn't use a confined container, water cooling and old ammunition. The application is indeed very different. And a lot of other physics fields, for example seismological research, also use precisely timed detonations. There is nothing special "nuclear" about them.

Just because a certain method like precise detonations is used in Iran, does not imply that it is used for what Mr. Albright and some "western agencies" claim. Nanodiamonds ain't nuclear weapons.....

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