Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Fission Man?

This just in:
Swedish police have detained a 31-year-old man in Ängelholm in western Sweden who was discovered after he sought advice from authorities on the legality of building a nuclear reactor in a domestic kitchen. 
Yeah right!
The man, who explained that his interest in nuclear physics was awakened as a teenager, ordered some radioactive material from overseas and acquired more by taking apart a domestic fire alarm.
Smoke detectors use americium 241, in the form of americium oxide - a typical smoke detector contains of the order of a milligram of the stuff. The critical mass for Am241 is 60-80kgs. Nice try.

It sounds like he was just piling fissionables up and hoping something would happen.

You could presumably make a sub-critical reactor with Am241, if you had an energetic particle source... say a big van-der-graaf generator and you use the proton stream. Not done the math. You can use Am242 to make a kind of battery.

He felt he wouldn't have been able to use it as a power source because:
To get it to generate electricity you would need a turbine and a generator and that is very difficult to build yourself.
... actually, those are the easy bits. It would fail to be a power source because it couldn't possibly have worked. The police let him go.

This guy was just building a box with some cool metal in it. But he reminds me of this guy building a cruise missile in his back yard. Again, over-sensationalized: a better description would be "a model jet aircraft". It would also have kept him out of trouble but he was trying to make a point.

Bottom line: you can bud all kinds of things if you are prepared to stretch a point.

No comments:

Post a Comment