Exports of Nuclear Parts to Iran, the tricky business of dual-use equipment

The US, which continues to put tremendous pressure on Iran to dismantle its nuclear "weapon" programme, was in for a shock recently when a California-based firm was fined by the country's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the Department of Commerce  (pdf) for sales of dual-use nuclear equipment that may have actually landed in Tehran.   It is alleged Mattson Technology sold 47 pressure transducers worth $78,000 ( to customers in Israel, Malaysia, China, Singapore, and Taiwan during 2006-08. Pressure transducers are dual-use equipment with nuclear applications in measuring the gas pressure inside centrifuge cascades.  The sales made to customers in China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan have particularly evoked concern because of their history as intermediaries for goods required for Iran's sanctioned nuclear programme.  Mattson agreed to pay an $850,000 fine last month. However, $600,000 of the amount could be waived if the first installment of $250,000 is paid within 30 days of the order and the firm agrees to compliance with the terms of its probation (including not making any other illegal sales for a year).

Iran is known as an active purchaser of a large number of pressure transducers, according to a report by Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) - a renowned US-based think tank on nuclear non-proliferation.  Iran, the ISIS says, sent in 2008-2009, more than 40 requests for price quotes to German manufacturers.

US firm fined over nuclear gear 'sale' to Iran, India Today, May 28, 2012

According to the BIS "Abut May 2006, one of Mattson’s supply chain partners informed it that pressure transducers that Mattson [has been employing in its production process of semiconductor wafers] required export licenses when shipped to Mattson customers in certain foreign countries.”  However, Mattson continued its exports from June 7, 2006 to April 24, 2008.

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