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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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  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:53AM (#36958502)
    Geez, everyone's a critic. He's just trying to send electricity back onto the grid and he probably couldn't get approval from his landlord to put solar panels on his roof.
    • Arrested? He should get his own TV show!
    • Well, a nuclear reactor potentially adds a whole new meaning to "there goes the neighborhood".

      P.S.Namely, there it goes in a cloud of radioactivity.I know nuclear reactors generally can't explode.

    • I know...Right!? I mean it's not like when this guy [] did the same thing in his dad's shed.
    • 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.
      • 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.

        • TFA points out that he himself didn't expect much of it

          He told the newspaper that had he succeeded in building a nuclear reactor, generating any power would probably have proved beyond him. "To get it to generate electricity you would need a turbine and a generator and that is very difficult to build yourself," he told HD.

          He also claims he had been using a geiger counter and had not detected "a problem" with the radiation.

      • i worry more about the insane things some crackpot might be doing with radioactive elements next door

        you have strange priorities, because the regulators were RIGHT to overreact

        if regulators got the impression some loony toon was playing with radioactivity in an apartment building, they aren't doing their job if they don't overreact

        is this hysteria on my part? false alarmism on my part?

        no, it is false complacency on your part to take the concept of some wackjob playing with radioactivity in tight living spac

        • If the police had come with a search warrant, and arrested him if they found evidence that he was doing something illegal, that would be reasonable. But arresting him merely because he asked permission to make a reactor is silly.
  • 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 TehNoobTrumpet ( 1836716 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:56AM (#36958532)
    Prisoner 1: "I raped a bitch and killed her. What're you in for?"
    Prisoner 2: "I built a nuclear power plant in my kitchen."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:56AM (#36958536)

    Choice quote: "To get it to generate electricity you would need a turbine and a generator and that is very difficult to build yourself".

    Yeah, it's not like thhey're nineteenth century steam technology like the redundant safety systems.

    • Re:The hard parts (Score:5, Interesting)

      by plover ( 150551 ) * on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:11AM (#36958644) Homepage Journal

      Choice quote: "To get it to generate electricity you would need a turbine and a generator and that is very difficult to build yourself".

      On its face, the quote is correct. A turbine and generator would be hard to build yourself. From scratch.

      However, you can go to an automotive junkyard and pick up a used turbo unit for a few bucks, and while you're there, you can pick up an alternator, too. Now the problem is no harder than piping the steam from a pressure cooker through the turbo, and hooking the turbo to the alternator. Just add fission and you're on the grid!

      A lot of people are playing with homemade turbine engines made from junked car parts. Perhaps they are deliberately trying to make it sound hard to discourage other Swedes with too many smoke detectors from trying a similar experiment.

      • 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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Why assume he wanted electricity? A subcritical pile makes heat. Heat is energy, heat is expensive. It gets cold in europe in the winter. Stack the pile in your furnace in the winter, unstack it in the summer so it doesn't make heat. Easy peasy. Only real problem is the toxic result of fission. Also libyans might try to steal your pile, so send a HS kid back in time to tell you when you need to wear a bullet proof vest. Easy.

      • Personally I would be a bit leery of an old junk yard turbo since most people who have a turbo car don't bother to take care of it, like let the car idle so the turbo cools off so you don't scorch the oil in it before shutting the car off, or doing regular oil changes. Now if it was off a relatively new car that was just totaled then I wouldn't be anywhere near a leery. But it is easily doable.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's the big deal about being "arrested"? Police (and others) use their power of arrest all the time. The big story will be if he is charged with something.

    • And somehow you don't see it as a big deal that they are denying someone's freedom? Being arrested -is- a big deal because it often causes more damage than being charged with a crime.

      Chances are slim that the government will pay you for the emotional trauma of being arrested, the loss to your reputation if you are arrested and all other effects of you being arrested even if you aren't charged with a crime in the end.
      • I also don't like a police state where you can get arrested for no apparent reason. But it's not like there was "no apparent reason". He was playing with goddamn nuclear material!

        What should the police have done according to all you complaining people? Kindly request that he refrains from building a nuclear reactor, and that he delivers the nuclear material before noon the next day, because although it's a grey area in the law, it's best not to play with it in a residential area?

        Of course they raided the ap

    • by adsl ( 595429 )
      I am presuming that you are British? In the UK being "arrested" merely means being questioned. It has little to no long term consequences. In other countries being "arrested" means actually being formally charged with an offence. An ""arrest" record stays on your record forever and many job interviewers specifically ask if one has ever been "arrested". As this is a public record it means answering it in the affirmative and hoping that the interviewer listens to your side of the experience. But many would j
    • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @10:47AM (#36959762) Journal

      What's the big deal about being "arrested"? Police (and others) use their power of arrest all the time. The big story will be if he is charged with something.

      He won't get a charge. Neutrons don't carry a charge.

  •'s that bloody boy scout [], up to his old tricks again.
    • He wasn't even an Eagle Scout at the time. He earned that later. Can you imagine if he was an Eagle Scout? I bet you he either would have figured out some awesome new method for nuclear power generation or would have died in the process as so many Eagle Scouts seem to do in the name of progress (Roger Chaffee, Ellison Onizuka, William McCool).

  • by rbrausse ( 1319883 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @08:59AM (#36958572)

    he was questioned by the police because he apparently violated some Swedish nuclear material laws.

    the story in short:
    - he invested $950
    - he bought radioactive material and dismantled one domestic fire alarm
    - he blogged about his expirements
    - he asked the Swedish authorities if it is allowed to build a nuclear reactor
    - some official accompanied by police offices visited his flat and found no radiation problem
    - he was questioned at a police stations and was afterwards released
    - all the nuclear stuff was confiscated

    • Is he being charged with anything?

      If not then that actually seems a fairly reasonable response given that he asked permission before doing anything risky.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Everything about the story makes sense except for

      - all the nuclear stuff was confiscated

      What he was doing, and what he owned, was perfectly legal, right?

      That's the whole point of exempt sources... Ultra super low power, yet detectable with good gear... Assuming he wasn't stupid enough to beg borrow steal non-exempt sources...

      Now if he had unlicensed non-exempt sources, I can see why they'd throw the book at him and confiscate it all. I'd even more or less support it. I have friends who are in charge of non-exempt sources and the legal require

  • by symes ( 835608 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:00AM (#36958576) Journal

    He was not trying to generate electricity - "To get it to generate electricity you would need a turbine and a generator and that is very difficult to build yourself," he told HD. He was just tinkering! Obviously a DIY purist. This guy should get a geek medal or something. Utterly brilliant. And I am very pleased I'm not his neighbour.

    • The submission is a litte incomplete. Where are the plans and schematics of his reactor!? It could be the heigth of geekness and coolness if most of the case and support structure were made of LEGO.

  • another attempt (Score:5, Informative)

    by An ominous Cow art ( 320322 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:01AM (#36958586) Journal

    This kid [] tried (badly, apparently) to do the same in the US a while back. I lived only a couple of streets over, but had left the area a dozen years before his attempt. I think I delivered newspapers to his house.

  • by Xacid ( 560407 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @09:05AM (#36958610) Journal

    Is it really necessary to raid a guy who was asking for permission in the first place? Seems like he would have welcomed an "inspection" and handled things accordingly from there. Since he was asking for permission it sounds like he wasn't trying to break the law - give the guy some credit. All this is going to do is discourage others from inquiring and just doing whatever they're after.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Yes - didn't you know? Terrorists always go through airport TSA security checkpoints, illegal immigrants always arrive by air, and people who seek to build weapons of mass destruction always ask for permission from the government beforehand!
    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Is it really necessary to raid a guy who was asking for permission in the first place?

      Ask permission first and you get licensed to work with non-exempt sources. No problemo.

      F around and ask stupid questions after already doing it, they're gonna come down like a ton of bricks.

      Try building an addition onto your house once by acquiring a building permit before starting work, and once by acquiring a building permit after the work is complete, and report back on which experience was more "fun".

  • The worying bit is (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chrisq ( 894406 )

    He ordered some radioactive material from overseas

    Which was evidently delivered without any of the authorities being notified. How many Jihadi's are reading this and putting in their orders now?

    • Replace the words 'radioactive material' with the word 'fertiliser', given recent events, and see whether you are more/same/less worried.
    • He ordered some radioactive material from overseas

      Which was evidently delivered without any of the authorities being notified

      it was most likely a Radium preperation like this one [] (or a similar product for scholastic purposes), more intensive radiation sources are strictly controlled.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dencrypt ( 1068608 )
      Here's his blog. Might explain some of his work.
  • ... he received simultaneous job offers from Iran and North Korea ...
  • Sounds like 5-digit Slashdot user or something...Extra geek points for mushroom over Stokholm.
  • Who needs radioactive material to build a nuclear reactor? This is clearly no Macgyver.

  • Isn't this extremely old or is he just copying someone else who did this?
  • Don't write about nuclear anything if you're going to do it "in shrt frm". Have the attention span to type the whole word.
  • That's pretty stupid, overall. He should've done his research before doing some experiments, and the government shouldn't've gone in with a vengeance. As far as silly ways to get arrested, though, it's sillier than getting arrested for making moonshine in the US. []
    • His blog [] (English), where describes his experiments.
    • Forum thread [] (Swedish), started by himself, where the arrest and possible consequences are discussed.
    • With little gems on his blog page like "But I tried to cook Americium, Radium and Beryllium in 96% sulphuric-acid, to easier get them blended.", accompanied by photos of goop spilled all over his kitchen stove, I kinda agree with the authorities here....
  • it still had real info on it.

    But he needed to steal some plutonium from the power plant to make it work.

  • Hmm, I wonder if he was arrested, or "arrested." Meaning, he'll disappear from the grid, and turn up working in a government lab. I'd think sensible politicos would want to nurture this sort of thing.
  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @10:58AM (#36959898)

    I build mine in a rented garage, like all right-thinking people. It's right by the death ray and the free energy machines.

  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @11:26AM (#36960276)
    It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
  • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2011 @11:57AM (#36960666) Journal

    He was obviously making a good faith effort to find out the relevant laws and comply. He bought freely available materials over-the-counter so to speak. This isn't a bad guy but rather a curious one and justice is not served by punishing him. As some point people have forgotten that the law is guideline to justice and that actual justice should be served by the system, not strict compliance with the letter of the law.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"