According to The Local, the man began his nuclear experimenting around six months ago and had maintained a blog detailing his plans to construct a nuclear reactor in his apartment. He obtained a small amount of radioactive material from a fire alarm and ordered some more from overseas.
Given the whole blog aspect of the project you would assume that authorities would have already been wise to his nuclear ambitions and that the Swedish equivalent of the FBI would have been onto him from the start… you would be assuming wrong. They only found out when he contacted the Swedish Radiation Authority, namely Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten (try saying that really fast three times in a row) to inquire as to whether his DIY nuclear reactor plan, which used radium, americium and uranium, might have any legal impediments. He was told that someone would come to his apartment to measure radiation levels. The Associated Press reports that a small meltdown in his kitchen had prompted his phone call to the authorities.
The amateur physicist described what happened next to local paper Helsingborgs Dagblad:
When they came they had the police with them. I have had a Geiger counter and have not detected a problem with radiation.
He was arrested, questioned and after admitting what he had been doing, released.
I guess the real question here is, “was he successful?” He was, partially – he had the reactor part of it down, it just wasn’t generating any electricity.
The thing about nuclear power is that after all is said and done, it is just a fancy way to boil water in order to create steam, that spins a turbine, which is connected to a generator that creates the electricity – the nuclear part of it was easy; the electrical part proved much more complicated.
As he explained to Helsingborgs Dagblad:
To get it to generate electricity you would need a turbine and a generator and that is very difficult to build yourself
At the end of it all, Richard Handl is 6,000 kronor (USD 950) out of pocket as all of his equipment was confiscated in the raid. On the bright side, he did get a definitive answer to his original question: it is not legal to build a nuclear reactor in your kitchen. He also faces the prospect of fines or a prison sentence of up to two years.