Man Arrested for Attempting to Split the Atom in his Kitchen


A photo of a 'meltdown' on nuclear experimenter Richard Handl's kitchen stove. Photos: Handl via Richard's Reactor

People take up some crazy hobbies out there: building elaborate model trains, collecting dusty old stamps, attempting to split the atom in their kitchen in order to solve the world's energy crisis. Yes, it appears that an intrepid young Swedish man obtained a supply of uranium, radium, and other radioactive elements, and had proceeded to build a small nuclear fission reactor in his kitchen. He was conducting experiments in his apartment -- and keeping a public blog of the results -- when it occurred to him that his activities might be against the law. So he phoned the police, and sure enough, was immediately arrested for possessing nuclear materials.The AP reports:

A Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen said Wednesday he was only doing it as a hobby. The 31-year-old Richard Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove. Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden's Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.

"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."


Handl, who is evidently both quite reckless and kind of awesome, has acknowledged now that it probably wasn't the best idea to jerry-rig nuclear power reactors on his stove top. But hey, can't a guy try to split the atom in his own home without the nanny state ruining all the fun? Damn socialist Sweden and its intrusive laws!

Officials have detected radiation around the apartment, but not nearly enough to be dangerous, they say.

The best part about this is that Handl was blogging the whole time. Here's an entry called "The Meltdown" (accompanies the the photo at top):

"A meltdown on my cooker!!!

No, it not so dangerous. But I tried to cook Americium, Radium and Beryllium in 96% sulphuric-acid, to easier get them blended. But the whole thing exploded upp in the air...

Of cource I thrown away my pills at the left side, and I didn't drink the juice-syryp in the right. [sic]"

Ah, just another day in the life. Come home, kick the shoes off, grab a beer, and try to cook up some radium. The unfortunate part about the story is that it leaves Handl's great question unanswered: Can a man split the atom in his kitchen, with just a passion for physics and some low-grade uranium?

The world may never know.

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