Rule No 1 for building a nuclear reactor in your kitchen: don’t tell the authorities. This a lesson a Swedish fission enthusiast learned the hard way when the police stormed his house.
Richard Handl’s DIY project had been running for several months before the police came after him. Handl had also boasted of his achievements in his blog.
“I have always been interested in physics and chemistry,” the 31-year-old said, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Police raided Handl’s home in late July and arrested him for possession of radioactive materials.
Ironically, the law enforcers’ arrival came after Handl addressed a query to Sweden’s Radiation Authority. He did an experiment which involved a small meltdown on his stove followed by a small explosion, and wanted to know if it had been legal.
Results of the meltdown experiment. Picture from Richard Handl’s blog.
If the court finds him guilty of endangering public health by storing the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment, Handl faces up to two years in prison.
On Wednesday, Handl was released by the court, but his fate is yet to be decided. He said he had abandoned his reactor project. But he now has a new hobby to pursue – collecting news stories about his exploits.
Richard Handl is one of an estimated three dozen nuclear enthusiasts worldwide to have succeeded in carrying out a fission reaction at home.
Arguably the most famous of them is the American, David Hahn. Back in 1994, he attempted to build a breeder nuclear reactor and made some progress with the project. Hahn was 17 at the time and was dubbed “the radioactive boy scout” by the media.
Handl’s blog points to Hahn as one of the people who inspired him to pursue his project.