A Swedish man who kept a blog chronicling his attempts to build a homemade nuclear reactor in his apartment has shut down the project after being arrested by police and held under suspicion of breaching radioactive material safety laws. If convicted of an offence, he faces heavy fines or up to two years in jail.
Richard Handl, of rural Ängelholm, had quantities of radioactive radium and uranium, and was attempting to create a self-sustaining fission reaction similar to a nuclear power station, although on a vastly smaller scale.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Handl explains his motivation, "I have always been interested in physics and chemistry," Handl said, adding he just wanted to "see if it's possible to split atoms at home."
While his blog contained entries going back as far as May of this year, Handl had neglected to inform Sweden’s Radiation Authority of his experimentation. When he finally contacted the agency, they responded by sending police and nuclear specialists to his home.
“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. Then I was placed in a police-car, when Radiation Safety Authory [sic] went into my apartment with very advanced measure-tools,” Handl says in a blog entry. “So, my project is canceled!”
Handl claimed on his blog to be following in the footsteps of David Hahn, the ‘Radioactive Boy Scout’, who attempted to build a nuclear reactor in a garden shed at the age of 17. Both avid chemists seem to have attracted the same response to authorities, who seem strangely discomfited by the spectre of citizens building their own atomic fission power sources.
While some might see atomic physics as a slightly odd hobby, enthusiasts congregate at Internet sites devoted to the pastime. For example, fusor.net is a community dedicated to building nuclear fusion reactors.