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Swede Arrested For Building Nuclear Reactor 410

An anonymous reader writes "A 31 year old Swedish male was arrested for trying to build a nuclear reactor in his apartment. He got hold of radioactive material thru mail-order purchases and from smoke detectors. Police raided his apartment after he had contacted the Swedish Radiation Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten) to inquire if it was legal to construct a nuclear reactor at home."
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Swede Arrested For Building Nuclear Reactor

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  • Lesson learned (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:54AM (#36958504)
    Never ask for permission, but just do!
  • by barlevg ( 2111272 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:55AM (#36958530)

    I love that the only reason he got busted is because he asked if it was okay...

    Seems like he should have either:

    (a) Asked BEFORE acquiring the material or

    (b) Not asked at all

  • by volsung ( 378 ) <> on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:08AM (#36958624)

    I'm puzzled how this guy was going to build a "nuclear reactor" out of mail-order isotopes and smoke detectors. Smoke detectors usually contain Am-241, which is an alpha emitter. The mail order stuff I assume was uranium ore. Was he planning to create neutrons from (alpha, n) reactions and use those to trigger a few fissions from the uranium?

    This sounds like his experiment bears as much similarity to a reactor as a balloon full of hairspray resembles a car engine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:17AM (#36958696)

    Prisoner 3: "I downloaded and shared 10,000 movies."

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:22AM (#36958756)
    Prisoner 5: "I published the encryption algorithm used by an American company, which is legal where I live"
  • Re:The hard parts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:25AM (#36958802) Homepage Journal

    That would get you out some electricity. Building it as a continuously-operating system is somewhat trickier.

    Even trickier than that is getting it into your house power grid, which means syncing up the AC and other EE-grade power issues. You can buy the device you need, but it would end up costing more than just buying power from the power company, and be less convenient. (Plus, he was doing it in an apartment, probably without direct access to the mains.)

    He didn't want to generate power, just do a little tinkering. He might well have hooked it up to a junk generator at some point, just to prove he could, but it wasn't the point. And the authorities were right to get nervous about it: the materials are toxic as well as radioactive, and putting more lives at risk than his. Get yourself a shed in the middle of nowhere next time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:58AM (#36959202)

    shut the fuck up

  • by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @10:22AM (#36959418) Homepage

    Prisoner 3: "I had consensual sex with two women, who then met up and withdrew consent after the fact. They only busted me after I leaked crimes committed by the US Army."

    Don't forget, this is Sweden.

  • Want details (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stellian ( 673475 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @10:23AM (#36959438)

    How exactly one goes about building a nuclear reactor from mail order uranium (presumably depleted) and smoke detectors (about 1 microgram of Americium 241 each) ? The critical mass of Am 241 is over 50 Kg, so he would need 50 million smoke detectors to build a bomb. For a controlled, moderated reaction, much more, maybe hundreds of Kg. The technology to enrich natural uranium up to reactor-grade level is barely in the hands of states.

    The fact that someone took him seriously and actually sent a guy with a detector AND a police squad to his house shows just how ridiculously incompetent the regulators are, and how paranoid people get when the word "radiation" is uttered.

  • Re:Want details (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @10:42AM (#36959702) Journal
    As an explosion risk, this guy ranks well below a kid with a pack of sparklers. However, I can see taking some precautions around anyone who has been playing with Am241-containing items in any atypical quantity...

    That stuff is a reasonably zesty alpha emitter, and modestly well absorbed if taken internally, which isn't a good mix. If some noob has been fucking around, it is hardly unreasonable to take the precautionary step of assuming that he's manage to produce a bunch of toxic and radioactive dust.
  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @11:38AM (#36960438) Homepage

    But the problem was that it is not even illegal to do that in Sweden. It is only a legal "greyzone", and there is no laws for it either.

    I'm sure Sweden has laws against things like reckless endangerment. That Americium is some nasty crap. It's not as toxic as Plutonium, but it's no fun.

    Forget radioactivity for a minute. How would you feel if it turned out that your neighbor had been growing ebola cultures in his living room because he was convinced he could find a cure? I doubt if there are any specific laws against growing your own ebola cultures, but I'll damn sure betcha it's against plenty of laws that are on the books.

  • Re:Want details (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @11:51AM (#36960600)

    I'm sure they were more worried about the radioactive material itself than the possibility he would actually succeed at building a reactor. He was never going to build a working reactor, but it's quite possible he might have acquired enough radioactive material to make himself and his neighbors very sick.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.