Police arrested a man in Sweden this week who was apparently trying to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen, reports the Associated Press. The man, 31-year-old Richard Handl, reportedly had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment.
Handl says that his attempted atom splitting was nothing more than a hobby. He even kept a blog about it. But he blew up his own spot after contacting the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SRSA) last month to find out whether he was actually allowed to build his own nuclear reactor. Handl’s inquiry came after his attempt to dissolve radium in a cooking pot using 96 percent sulfuric acid went terribly wrong.
He wasn’t, and authorities soon raided Handl’s home in Angelhom, a costal town in southern Sweden, with a population of about 40,000 people.
“We realized he probably had radioactive material at his home which you are not allowed to have without a permit,” said Leif Moberj, researcher director of SRSA, in an interview with CNN, “which is why the authorities decided to inspect his home.”
The authorities eventually found Handl’s cache of radioactive elements after an “extensive” search of his property, Moberj said. Luckily, the levels of radiation emanating from his house were too low to cause any concern to neighbors.
According to CNN, Handl was quoted in a Swedish newspaper as saying that he had his own Geiger counter, and hadn’t detected any increased levels of radiation to be concerned about.
While it has not yet been reported where Handl acquired the uranium or radium (which can be found in some clocks), the radioactive element Americium-241 likely came from a smoke detector, which contain small amounts of the radioactive metal. For this reason, the US Environmental Protection Agency suggests never dismantling or burning a smoke detector, which could pose a “significant risk” to anyone who inhales or ingests the americium.