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Building a kitchen nuclear reactor ‘for fun’

August 8, 2011

Some people are so desperate to find a source of clean, non-emitting energy that they’ll do just about anything to obtain it.

Take, for example, the news item we just read about a man in Sweden who apparently tried to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen.

That’s right: he tried to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen.  And he appears to have come close to succeeding!

When the Swedish authorities caught up with him he told them he was just a hobbyist with an interest in “nuclear physics and particle physics” who wanted to see “if it’s possible to split atoms at home” — not for the electricity but rather “just for fun.”

Now we’ve seen some pretty strange definitions of “fun” before, but this one really is out there (even for the boys in the BCCGE mailroom who frequently come up with some really weird and whacky stuff).

But before we all write this eccentric Swedish nuclear hobbyist off as some sort of certifiable loon, we should remember that the history of technological innovation is filled with accidental “kitchen table” discoveries that ended up changing the world, or at the very least changed significant incremental pieces of it.

Vulcanized rubber and penicillin are just two examples of such accidental discoveries; and if some accounts are to be believed, Charles Goodyear literally discovered (or perfected) vulcanized rubber in his home kitchen.

So we should never discourage idle tinkering and unrestrained curiosity, even by hobbyists, because one man’s loony can sometimes end up winning a Nobel Prize or getting a leg up on the future in a way that benefits everyone.

So now, as the boys in the BCCGE mailroom wait patiently and eagerly for video of the Swedish nuclear reactor guy to get posted on YouTube, or at least for a short clip to run on America’s Funniest Home Videos, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the creative thinkers, engineers, tinkerers and modern-day blacksmiths of the world who are busy working on the clean energy puzzle and helping get us to a 100 percent renewable energy world.

You never can tell where or when brilliance will strike in a way that radically changes our world for the better.

Having said that, and having applauded the creative eccentrics among us, please read and enjoy the article below about the Swedish guy who tried to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen.  Truth really is stranger than fiction.

STOCKHOLM – A Swedish man police detained two weeks ago for trying to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen said Thursday he had started the experiment “just for fun”.

Richard Handl, 31, from Aengelholm municipality in southwestern Sweden, said police had briefly detained him at the end of July for attempting to build a nuclear reactor in the kitchen of his flat.

He had meant no harm and had started the project as a hobby, he told AFP.

“I have always been interested in nuclear physics and particle physics,” he said.

In May, he launched an English-language blog, “Richard’s Reactor” in which he charted his progress in the project, complete with picture.

His plan, he said, was “to build a working nuclear reactor. Not to gain electricity, just for fun and to see if it’s possible to split atoms at home.”

Just to make sure everything was above board, he sent an email to Sweden’s Radiation Safety Authority.

“Hi! I’m really interested in nuclear physics and radiation,” he wrote.

“As a hobby, I have … gathered the basic materials (and) planned a project to build a very primitive nuclear reactor. You can see my plans here,” he added, complete with a link to his blog.

“I’m now wondering if I am breaking a law with this,” he asked in the email, a copy of which he forwarded to AFP.

At that point, his experiment came to an abrupt end.

Two days later “the police and the radiation safety authority came to my apartment,” Handl said.

He wrote in his blog: “I was ordered by the police to get out of the building with my hands up, then three men came, with geiger-counters and searched me.”

Police questioned him for about half an hour, before releasing him, he told AFP.

The radiation authority confirmed in a statement that it had conducted a search of a private residence on July 20.

“The authority seized the radiative material that was in the apartment and forbade the person to handle radioactive materials,” it added.

But they had not detected high levels of radiation in the apartment and neighbours had not been exposed to radiation.

On his blog however, Handl wrote that he “was still suspected of a crime against the radiation safety law.”

“So, my project is canceled!” he lamented.

Handl’s blog can be found at

by Ola Awoniyi

(c) 2011 AFP

Source : AFP

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