Handl’s In The Basement, Mixin’ Up The Medicine

A 31-year-old Swedish man may be on his way to the pokey because the authorities don’t much like his hobby.

Richard Handl, of the delightfully named burg of Angelhome, is interested in nuclear physics. So he figured—why not?—that he’d split atoms in his kitchen.

For months, Handl set about building a nuclear reactor in his home. Nuclear materials he purchased over the intertubes—on eBay, or, of course, “from Germany.” Some, creatively, he plucked from common sources, such as the americium he teased out of household smoke detectors, or the trithium, one of the key components of hydrogen bombs, he discovered in keychains.

Like any good citizen of the intertubes era, he blogged about his journey, on a site called “Richard’s Reactor.” Proudly, he showed off there his uranium glass marble, the radium he retrieved from old clock-fingers.

Forthrightly, he defined his mission:

My project is to build a working nuclear reactor. Not to gain electricity, just for fun and to see if it’s possible to split atoms at home. I would be a breeder reactor, and my primary goals is to carry out two main reactions[.]

Faithfully, he chronicled even his failures—such as when he created a small meltdown on his stove (pictured below).

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.

Like any intrepid researcher, Handl, following the meltdown, simply “cleaned up the mess on the cooker and then I bought some more radium and continued the experiment.”

At some point Handl thought maybe he’d notify Sweden’s Radiation Authority, to make sure that what he was doing was okay. The Authority contacted the police, who came out to Handl’s place, checked out his radium, americium, uranium, and whatnot, and arrested him for unauthorized possession of nuclear materials. He could potentially serve two years in prison.

“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.”

Queried by the BBC as to whether what he was about might not be considered highly dangerous, Handl replied: “Yes, but I have a Geiger counter to measure the radiation and I have it under control.”

Now that he has encountered Johnny Law, Handl says that henceforth “I will stick to the theory.”

This sort of thing was inevitable. Humans are curious, and clever, and the information is out there: the Progressive, not so long ago, printed, based on then-publicly available information, a recipe for building an atomic bomb.

Not everybody is going to be content with confining nuclear-fiddling to governments, and officially sanctioned Science Men.

Handl’s own blog observes that he was not the first person to go nuclear at home—apparently some boy scout got there before him—and he certainly won’t be the last.

As Handl notes: Geiger counter. Good to have around.

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6 Responses to “Handl’s In The Basement, Mixin’ Up The Medicine”


  1. 1 possum August 9, 2011 at 3:40 am

    As the old saying goes, “Curiosity killed the cat.” At least Handl caused no real harm. This marsupial cannot help but wonder who did the most harm to the world–the authorities suppressing the quest for knowledge or Handl? My bet goes to overzealous authority types.

    • 2 bluenred August 9, 2011 at 9:19 am

      There is a lot that one is required to put up with, from neighbors. For instance, I am currently sandwiched between a chainsaw, and some sort of sander. Cooking uranium on the stove, though: I think that crosses a line. : /

  2. 3 possum August 9, 2011 at 11:04 am

    At least you cannot smell or hear the uranium. Sneaky stuff that. Maybe if the place blew up that would be a real issue for one and all.

    • 4 bluenred August 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      I think that the fact that you’re living next door to a nuclear reactor is one of those things that should be “disclosed,” when you’re considering property. Whether the reactor is maintained by the government, GE, or Joe Blow. : /

  3. 5 possum August 10, 2011 at 4:12 am

    No argument there. Would be the right thing to do. No question about that.

  4. 6 soothsayer August 13, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Handl might have paid more attention to “The Radioactive Boyscout”

    Not Looking Good…

    http://cup-of-chemistry.blogspot.com/2007/08/radioactive-boy-scout.html

    btw just when did they start handing out Merit Badges for “Atomic Energy” ???

    “In a subsequent interview with a state health official, Hahn said he had been trying to produce energy and hoped it would help him earn his Eagle Scout badge, according to the Harper’s article. Hahn also acknowledged having a backyard laboratory in a potting shed at his mother’s home in Oakland County’s Commerce Township.

    Authorities declared the structure a hazardous materials site and sealed it. Crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency led a Superfund cleanup in 2005 that included dismantling the shed and shipping its remains to be buried at a low-level radioactive waste site in Utah”.

    So much for “morally straight”, huh???


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