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back to article Swede cuffed for cooking nuclear reactor on kitchen stovetop

A Swedish man was arrested and briefly detained for attempting to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen. "I've always been interested in nuclear physics and particle physics," the unnamed 31-year-old told the Helsingborgs Dagblad (Google Translate). "I have read many books about it and wanted to see if it worked. I just thought …

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Facepalm

Open-source reactoring?

Americium 241, the isotope found in smoke-detectors, is NOT FISSIBLE. In other words, you can't make a bomb or a reactor of it.

The 242m isomer is theoretically fissible, but so difficult that no working reactor uses it as fuel.

They do have search engines in Sweden, right?

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Maybe...but!

Undeterred by the approach being impossible? Not being transformed into a quivering wreck of fear by the possibility making the house sarcophagus-ready? Unafraid of spicing up the ramen with splattered Americium?

Hardcore.

A budding Black Mesa whitecoat, I say.

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Boffin

Read the book

David Hahn also got some thorium and radium, isolated from stuff from flea market. I presume it was similar for this guy.

The Giants on whose shoulders present day science stands on were very much alike this guy - I'd say they should find a university for him and let him do some proper science.

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241 Is A Source...

...of neutrons.

There are two uses.

1. Bombarding U238 to produce Plutonium

2. As an Initiator, that first neutron to start the chain reaction.

And additionally, all the cool Industrial things where a cheap source of ionizing radiation is to be had. For example, smoke detectors.

I don't know how much shielding this guy had, but looking at his ashtray, the cigarettes will get him before the radiation anyhoo. As a backup, darwin made Plutonium a powerful chemical poison

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Headmaster

Isomer is not the same as Isotope

I'm sure they have search engines in Sweden, but it's worth clearing up what an isomer is vs what an isotope is.

Isomers are molecules that have the same chemical formula but in which the atoms are arranged differently. Propanol is a good example of this (the hydroxyl group can be on the "end" carbon atom or the "middle" one - but they are both still "alcohols" - there's another isomer that has the same formula (C3H8O) that isn't...

These differences in layout, even the very minor ones, can have a significant impact which can range from different physical properties such as boiling point all the way through to different biochemical reactions in the body - thalidomide is perhaps the most infamous example of this where one isomer had health benefits and the other caused birth defects.....

Isotopes are variants of an element - whilst they have the same number of protons (also known as atomic number) they have a differing number of neutrons. Americium has 95 protons, a variable number of neutrons depending on whether its the 241/242/243 isotope.

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Re: Isomer is not the same as Isotope

The AC who had a problem with the term "isomer" being used in a nuclear context needs to do some research of his own. The term isn't restricted to its meaning in Chemistry. Try looking up "Nuclear Isomer" in Wikipedia.

The reason that Americium is used in domestic smoke detectors is that only a trivial and non-dangerous amount is needed. You're not going to get close to building a reactor with what you can scavenge from a warehouse full of detectors.

Practically, you'd need a roomful of ultra-pure Uranium and graphite before you could even think of getting a chain reaction going. Maybe a bit less if you managed to get some beryllium and didn't mind poisoning yourself with it.

Bottom line, there is zero risk of any amateur getting a chain reaction going in his home. But as with all things nuclear, that doesn't stop people worrying (including those with authority) and being wound up by the media.

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Nuclear Isomer (Was Re: Isomer is not the same as Isotope)

Thanks for the "science lesson".

242m is the metastable isomer of Americium 242: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_isomer#Metastable_isomers

Not sure where he's going to get 242m though.

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FAIL

FISSIBLE

There's no such word.

I think you meant 'fissile'.

How do you expect anyone take you seriously on the subject?

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Anonymous Coward

Or maybe.....

.... The word exists, it's just that it's 'infissible' to us mere mortals....

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FAIL

>"zero risk of any amateur getting a chain reaction going in his home."

How the hell can you talk about a zero risk when there is at least one well-known and thoroughly documented historical incident of it actually having happened? You fail Probability 101 forever.

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Windows

Having difficulty holding onto the barstool again...

That just looks like an omelette that went seriously wrong, rather than a "Manhattan Project" in his mum's kitchen.

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Christ

now every movie about home made nukes will now have to have a disclaimer. Hey jack ass don't do this.

If you do this you might go to jail or body parts might fall off.

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Makes your oven sparkle!

Call me sceptical, but wouldn't most of the worlds energy problems, not to mention weapons problems, be redundant if it were possible to just cook up a nuclear reactor on the home stove?

I do admire the guys optimism though, if not his cleanliness...

It's a shame the ingredients bill ran so high, otherwise he could have purchased some Mr Muscle® Oven Cleaner.. ("makes your oven sparkle!")

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Windows

Mr Muscle® Oven Cleaner.. ("makes your oven sparkle!")

I thought the slogan was "Does the jobs you hate".

Maybe that changed when some woman wote "Does it give my sweaty, stinking husband a blowjob when he comes home rat-faced from the pub on a Friday night? OK, I'll buy it"

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Mushroom

answer to the worlds energy problem

yes if people wern't so paranoid about nuclear power it would be far cheaper and greener (and still safer) than the alternatives available to us

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This one did work, though..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RVlg8M8XRs

..and probably a good deal less dangerous, although you don't want to go exposing yourself to fast neutrons, whatever the source.

The guy experimenting on the cooker simply beggars belief. Clearly he hadn't read-up on lab procedures, one of the key concerns being that ingestion of low-level sources is far more dangerous to health than merely handling them.

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Facepalm

Trolllolololol

Ahh.. I don't know where to start with that video.. or how to tell you that you have been trolled.. and trolled hard.. or are infact, trying too hard to troll yourself..

Basement [b]fusion[/b].. Really? It took the worlds greatest minds decades to get uncontrolled fission possible, and you think a teenager, with some vacuum pumps, some HVAC control switches, and a good patter = fission? Really?

Can we get a facepalm icon? Oh.. here it is...

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Boffin

@Alan

As I understood it, I have no problem with that video being real. If understood it correctly it is a fusor. It is not a nuclear reactor as in a power producing device, but it does make fusion happen. It isn't anywhere near able to create net energy.

Of course I do not know if that video is real or not, but fusors can be made by "ordinary" people in their basement.

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Facepalm

Pickard would be proud...

Apologies.

The second to last word of the second paragragh, should, obviously, have been fusion, and not fission.

And on a second watch.. is he really waving test-tubes about, as evidence?.. Lordy.. he's put that much evort in to the video, he should have went for a Zero-Point 'rig' and solved our energy problems before breakfast.

Another facepalm is needed....

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WTF?

@Alan Dougherty

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusor

Farnsworth fusors are used in industry as low-intensity neutron sources, and have been for decades. There is no doubt whatsoever that this kind of fusor works. What's more, it typically uses inexpensive deuterium gas, not costly tritium. Present designs are limited to low intensity applications, and thus are not fusion-power candidates. But, variants on the design might be viable power reactors. Surprisingly, very little reasearch has been done in that area.

Confucius say, He who fail to check facts, make big fool of himself using word troll.

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Mushroom

@ Jesus Puncher

"It's a shame the ingredients bill ran so high, otherwise he could have purchased some Mr Muscle® Oven Cleaner..."

You did realise that they already use household detergent to clean out disused nuclear reactors? True story:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/highlands_and_islands/8217772.stm

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Silver badge

LMAO

Can't wait to see the advert on TV.

"Staff at Sellafield in Cumbria were among those monitoring the use of Cillit Bang in Dounreay's experimental chemical plant.

One of the clean-up team suggested trying the product after the fluid normally used was deemed to be slowing down the operation.

The cleaner was found to markedly reduce levels of radioactive contamination."

Is that kills 99.9% or all radiation ?

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One for the SPB?

After LOHAN flies, a mini-Orion is the logical next step.

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Re: One for the SPB?

Mini-Orion? Gimme, gimme,gimme,gimme,gimme.

....on one condition...it must be capable of launching next door's chihuahua into LEO...failing that, into a restuarant in Pyongyang.

Glow in the dark pooch, without the genetic messing about...sorted.

Orion....grow a set, just build the bugger will you?...someone??..anyone???

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Mushroom

Fusors

I thought upon hearing this on the radio that the guy had built a fusor and the radiation had reached levels detectable from a distance.

Although at that sort of intensity the guy would no longer have a functioning digestive system, being arrested would be a minor inconvenience by comparison.

Interesting to note that in the impossibly unlikely event that someone figures out how to make a fusor self sustaining, then this could be a major headache for proliferation as neutrons can be used to convert LEU to HEU, suitable for a physics package.

Mushroom cloud for obvious reasons.

Had an argument with someone a while back about the legality of a nuclear coffee table, seems that even a nonfunctioning but authentic looking device will get you a visit from the MiB's

AC #include "BOOM_goes_the_kitchen.h"

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Digestive system.

Why would it affect his digestive system and not say his penis?

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Go

Funny you should mention fusion

.. and you didn't even laugh.

I usually laugh at the stupid tens of billions wasted on the so called 'fusion research' because it has been obvious for at least a decade that :

a) they don't want to achieve anything remotely practical, and

b) if they did, tritium is even more expensive to make than enriched uranium

c) there are at least 2 other routes that have shown a lot more success on 1/1000th the research budget or far less.

d) if I didn't laugh, I'd have to cry.

By far the most promising, practical and inexpensive fusion device/method is called 'focus fusion' (AFAIK). It is also the least funded. Actually it is not funded in the conventional sense but is being run as an Open Source project ... on donations.

Did I mention the goal is to build a 20MW device that would fit in a 2 car garage and cost less than $500,000 USD? Also since it would use direct conversion, there is no 18th century steam turbine and it would be around 90% efficient. Also the fuel is boron+hydrogen, that means ZERO NEUTRONS, no bombs, no radiation, no monopolies, no huge corporate pigs.

Have a look, it is based on solid mundane science:

http://focusfusion.org/index.php/site/article/focus_fusion_reactor

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Happy

AC@ 00:43

"Had an argument with someone a while back about the legality of a nuclear coffee table, seems that even a non functioning but authentic looking device will get you a visit from the MiB'"

There is usually quite a difference between "authentic looking " and "non functioning "

"authentic looking " could be viewed as a piece of creative art.

I'd be *very* surprised if you could get a "non functioning " physics package anywhere.

But either way some people might find it a tad provocative.

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Anonymous Coward

blah

It would reside for longer within him, thereby affecting internals more.

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Childcatcher

Boron + hydrogen?

Has nobody considered the carbon emissions?

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C 2
Boffin

Boron + hydrogen? -- Carbon12 then to He4 x3

Technically, the p-B11 reaction is a fusion-fission reaction. The proton and boron-11 fuse to temporarily create an unstable isotope of carbon-12, which then fissions to create three helium-4s. However, the same can be said about the deuterium-tritium reaction, which fuses to produce an unstable helium-5 and then fissions into a helium-4 and a neutron. Like wise with deuterium-helium-3, or practically any fusion reaction. There are a few pure fusion reactions. For example, when two deuteriums fuse they will usually either produce a Tritium and a proton, or a helium-3 and a neutron, but there is a very small chance that they will stick together to form a helium-4 with the excess energy carried off by a gamma ray. This would be a fusion reaction with no subsequent fission. But this reaction happens purely by chance. There is no way to make this particular outcome happen more often. It’s just part of the random nature of quantum mechanics that decides which outcome occurs. There is no fuel combination that produces only these kind of pure fusion reactions.

Snipped from:

http://focusfusion.org/index.php/site/article/are_you_sure_pb11_fusion_isnt_fission

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Unhappy

I might have missed something, but...

...since when has buying a Geiger counter a sign of TUUUURSM?

"He also acquired a Geiger counter from the US."

Mind you, I've been trying to find a geiger counter (for legitimate architectural purposes, I'll have you know - trolling local 'nuclear free zone' councils with smoke detectors and antique glassware) and they are either hilariously expensive or unobtainium. Seems like they are on the TUUUURSM watchlist.

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Devil

Not looked very hard then

There are dozens of places selling Geiger counters, hell, you can even build them yourself from one of the myriad kits out there on hobbyist websites.

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Mushroom

Everything you need can be found here

http://www.unitednuclear.com/

The one stop shop for all your mad science needs !

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Boffin

@ Adrian Esdaile / Geiger counters

Funny you should say that, because I have several old British military ones (there's something unbearably cute about the phrase "Ratemeter Scintillation Portable", ahh the military and their own peculiar jargon). You find them in old house clearances where people have kept them since the '60s and suchlike. Looking for one in an antiques shop is just asking for daylight robbery, however.

One note, however: I brought my dosemeters from the UK to another EU country just earlier this year, in main luggage. There's certainly nothing dangerous or illegal about them - they *measure* radiation, but they don't *contain* any, as a surprising number of people seem to think.

Hmm, my nice old RSP 1413A is a very pretty wooden one stamped with the markings of "Isotope Developments Ltd, Aldershot, England" - the home of the UK's wartime nuclear research facilities. I wonder it it'll be worth a bob or two to a collector...

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Thumb Up

Something smells good!

Still looks more appetising and is probably more palatable than the Mrs' cooking!

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TUUUURSM

I read this as tourism then realised terrorist and tourist are considered exchangable terms - in the US! :-)

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IT Angle

First there was kitchen gun, and toilet grenade

coming soon, Oven Nuke

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Anonymous Coward

His Blogg

This is the url for his blogg about his work (written in english)

http://richardsreactor.blogspot.com/

Note that he is a Mensa member and so on, its not some dingbat kid :)

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Facepalm

Mensa and Dingbats

The two are not mutually exclusive,.

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Mushroom

Geiger counters

I discovered a while back that you can homebrew a relatively good alpha detector using:-

1 piece of pyrolytic graphite (Greedbay, £15)

1 cheap monochrome CMOS camera

A screwdriver

A replacement crystal, I used a 4.43 MHz one robbed from a defunct TV

A tube of slow epoxy

A paif of gloves

1200 grit sandpaper

Tippex

Silica gel granules

Black CD marker

All you do is thin down the PG (you can use the other bits for levitators, etc)

Once a good thin piece is obtained, sand it down to as thin as you can make it with 1200 grit.

Clean up with your favourite solvent to get rid of any carbon dust.

Dismantle your cheap CMOS camera (I used an old B&Q one) and then CAREFULLY remove the lid to expose the bare sensor with attached fine wires.

Epoxy around the edge so the wires are covered but not the sensor.

I found that positioning the sensor at a 20 degree angle for each section helped here.

I also advise putting a single small blob of silica gel on the edge with no contacts with an air path to the sensor as otherwise water vapour will ruin it in short order.

Allow to dry, then retest camera. If all well prepare another tiny drop of Epoxy.

If you wish you can also add a strip of Xray scintillator film onto the bottom edge of the chip with the light emitting side facing downwards.

Epoxy your PG sheet down and then dry the whole assembly out at 50 degrees for two hours.

Test camera, as you will need to determine where any light leaks are.

Then paint the Epoxy with Tippex, dry out and retest.

Overcoat with CD marker and then paint the back and edges of the board as well leaving a gap around the crystal.

I also tend to disable the automatic iris pin if present with a 1K resistor to Gnd.

If all is well, replace the 13.5 MHz crystal (or 16 MHz) with your 4.43 MHz one.

Test camera, you should not have stable video BUT it will work fine on a 'scope.

The alpha sensitivity should be approximately 2.8* efficiency with 13.5MHz (!)

Particles show up as vertical spikes on your scope display.

This is also theorised to work on linear CCDs from old printers!

-Andre

#include "donate_to_4HV.h"

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