Swede busted for home-brew nuclear reactor

Science buff Richard Handl decided to split atoms at home in his free time, and the authorities weren't too pleased about it.

Think twice if you ever see this sign on a stranger's door. CC Stephen Korecky/Flickr

Some people like to tend to their garden, play video games, or tackle woodworking projects as a pastime. A 31-year-old Swedish man, according to the Associated Press, had a rather unusual hobby. Richard Handl was working on a homemade nuclear reactor.

In Angelholm, a municipality in southwest Sweden with a long sandy beach right outside of the main town, Handl was busy experimenting in his kitchen with radioactive elements radium, americium, and uranium. He opened up fire alarms, which contain small amounts of americium and ordered other elements from companies overseas, according to Swedish news site The Local.

His work in progress, while not fully functional, was assembled with 6,000 kroner ($950) of materials and equipment. What was the goal, though?

This appears to be a tale of a fellow reminiscent of Doc Brown from "Back to the Future." Both come off as eccentric men bending the law to satisfy a lust for science. Handl figured he should contact the Swedish Radiation Authority to ensure that what he was attempting was legal and safe. The company calmly responded by saying someone would stop by to measure the levels of radiation.

It wasn't long before the police arrived and took the mad scientist in for questioning.

Handl had nothing to hide, though, and told the authorities everything. He explained to the police he's been obsessed with nuclear physics since he was a teenager and his ambitions were innocent. They later released him without charges, but confiscated everything nuclear.

Speaking with local paper Helsingborgs Dagblad, Handl said if he had succeeded in making the reactor, it would be difficult to generate power due to the lack of a turbine and generator. Now, with everything gone, he told the paper, it was best to keep any future atomic endeavors strictly "theoretical."

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