Man makes nuclear reactor in garage

11 January 2008

[NBC 5, 9 January; Dallas News, 10 January] A 22-year-old man from Rockwall, Texas, attempted to build a small-scale nuclear power reactor in his garage. Authorities visited the man's home on 29 December after the unemployed computer whiz, who said he was fascinated by nuclear reactions and radiation, made boasts about his efforts on an amateur science blog on the internet. He claimed to have acquired uranium and that the background radiation at his home had doubled. Representatives from the Rockwall police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) removed equipment from the home at the request of the man's parents. He was found to have been experimenting with americium-241, which is used in smoke detectors, and natural uranium ore that he had bought on eBay. Tests found no abnormal levels of radiation at the home. The man said, "People do it in universities all the time. It's just not usual that somebody does it outside of a university." The FBI said that criminal charges against the man will not be filed as he had not actually done anything illegal. The man commented, "They're just doing their job. That's their job to come and check on stuff like that. When they left, it had been deemed that, you know, everything was within reason." He said he was not planning any similar experiments, adding, "I think I'll keep it cool for a while."

Further information

WNA's Smoke Detectors and Americium information paper

WNN: "Radioactive Boy Scout" arrested