Gamer Builds Nuclear Reactor in Home; FBI Pays a Visit

This game is rated M for… Mushroom cloud? 

We joke, of course.

But the FBI recently paid a visit to a Texas gamer who was attempting to build a small nuclear reactor in his basement. They were accompanied by local cops as well as officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The man, described by NBC-5 as  an “out-of-work computer whiz who redesigns (GP: mods, perhaps?) video games” is apparently a science buff with a fascination for all things nuclear.

The FBI searched his home but found no cause for concern. The feds did, however, take the man’s reactor project with them when they left, at the request of his parents.

Why did the young man embark on such a project? He told the TV news:

[Radiation is] in your tap water, you know, in the dirt. You could hold a Geiger counter up to a banana and get a count off of it. People do it in universities all the time. It’s just not usual that somebody does it outside of a university.

Authorities were alerted following a blog entry in which the man described possessing uranium and indicated that the background radiation of his home had doubled. Of the raid on his home the gamer-turned-scientist said:

[FBI agents are] 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…. I think I’ll keep it cool for awhile.

GP: It’s interesting that the TV news report makes so much of the man’s gaming, even showing him playing Call of Duty 4 at his PC.

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  1. 0
    The guy who did it says:

    It was not going to be used to make any significant amounts of energy nor was thier any chance of criticality. Like it has been said, it would have tekn several tons of low grade uranium and expertise that I do not posses.

    Safety: I had a 6 inch thick concrete cask…..should be enough.

    Like another poster had mentioned, it was of the type built in the 40’s to transmutate materials (ie: breeder) but nothing to do anything significant. I built a seebeck generator (think RTG) and it could produce minute amounts of power. Further plans where to construct a betavoltaic cell at some point.

    NBC5i Threatened to go and tell me neighbors and make me look like an asshole and at the same time, get me in trouble with my HOA if I did not give them a minute of video.

  2. 0
    Geno says:

    There are some misconceptions that the general public has about nuclear energy that should be addressed here.

    Drezta and Haggard

    It is highly unlikely (read: NOT POSSIBLE) that this individual could gather enough uranium to form a self-sustaining nuclear reaction. Critical mass for a bare sphere of weapons grade (98%) enriched uranium is about 52 kg. Weapons grade uranium is extremely expensive to produce. Since the isotopes of uranium have the same chemical and mechanical properties, uranium cannot be enriched by chemical means. The most common method is by centrifuge, taking advantage of the slightly different masses. This is not within the capability of any individual in their home. If we assume that the individual is using 15% enriched uranium, greater than 600 kg would be required to form any kind of chain reaction. Even with enough uranium to form a chain reaction, there would be no risk of explosion. Meltdown is a possibility, but the risk to the public would be minimal based on the lack of operating history and the immediate loss of critical geometry. Also, the 50 block radius would assume a yield in the kiloton range, which would require significantly more weapons grade uranium, as well as very efficient bomb design.

    Next we have the radiation concern. There are 4 different types of ionizing radiation:

    Alpha – These are heavy particles, but because of their geometry they are easily stopped by a piece of paper or a dead layer of skin. If inhaled or ingested they can be dangerous. An example of an alpha emitter is Radon

    Beta – This is another type of low energy radiation that, while potentially harmful, is easily blocked by a layer of clothing.

    Gamma – This is the most common type of radiation, and is penetrating, meaning that it must be shielded by heavy metals or materials specifically designed for shielding. Water is a good, cheap shield, which is why university reactors are often submerged in water.

    Neutron – Potentially the most devastating of radiation, these only come from nuclear fission.

    A doubling in the background radiation is his home would most certainly not be dangerous, as the levels of radiation in one’s home are drastically lower than the amount that would be required to cause damage, even with constant exposure.

    In conclusion

    1. It is not possible for an individual to create a fission reactor in one’s home that is capable of a) Exploding or b) Producing power

    2. A doubling in the background radiation level in his home would not have been a significant risk

    It is possible to amass enough radioactive material to present a hazard to oneself, and the conversion of isotopes is possible to create more hazardous forms of elements. In no way do I condone experimenting with radiation in one’s home. However, if the FBI and NRC found no cause for concern, and were not going to take any further action (the article implied that the experiment was removed only at the request of the boy’s parents), then the experiment was probably harmless.

    Interestingly, this is not the first time this has happened. In 1994 David Hahn, a boy scout, attempted to build a breeder reactor in a shed on his property. His experimentation led to his exposure to very large amounts of hazardous radioactive material, mostly thorium. The NRC sent in a nuclear waste disposal team to dismantle his experiment and the containing shed. All material was disposed of as radioactive waste.

  3. 0
    Haggard ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The danger is if you don’t beat critical mass, the reactor pops, and then so do the neighbours.. and their neighbours.. and about 50 blocks around.

  4. 0
    Drezta says:

    @Papa Midnight: its all fun and games till u nuke ur gonads.

    it was well within his rights to try and build it, but to be fair there should be a bit of legislation about this just for the safety of his neighbors just in case of a ‘runnaway reaction’ because most modern reactors have ridiculous amounts of safety procedure and equipment to keep the heat and radiation in while letting electricity out.

  5. 0
    Stefan says:

    It should be noted, that if anything, this was likely a model reactor, similar to the first nuclear piles constructed in the 1940s. More a precursor to true reactors. Basically you use some uranium and moderator to slow the neutrons to get -some- reaction going. And even then you’d need to lots of technical and physical knowledge. Not to mention the materials.

    There is no way he could build a true nuclear reactor at home which can be used to great electrical energy.

  6. 0
    atheiossupremos says:

    i think that, while he shouldn’t have uranium, he does have the right to make a reactor, just like i said without radioactive materials similar to plutonium and uranium.

  7. 0
    Ricardo says:

    Well, lets play COD4 to be intelligent and build a nuclear reactor at home. Well, some thing’s are not quite rigth, how could a player learn in a game how to build a nuclear reactor, and what’s that game that makes a conection to nuclear power plans? I’ll guess the dude wanna build a power plant to do something like Chernobyl to the neigberhood.

  8. 0
    scot ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    – The FBI searched his home but found no cause for concern. The feds did, however, take the man’s reactor project with them when they left, at the request of his parents.

    the nuclear reactor he was constructing was no cause for concern? and they only took it because mommy asked agent johnson to do so?

  9. 0
    MikeT says:

    Apart from the video game angle, I don’t see anything particularly odd here. If my neighbor was building some kind of nuclear device I would certainly want the authorities checking up on it. The article even goes so far as to say that FBI only confiscated the device upon the request of the parents. Clearly they got a report, and wanted to make sure everything was on the up and up.

    Call me crazy, but that all seems perfectly reasonable.

  10. 0
    meh says:

    crap i forgot. There is a HUGE difference between weapons-grade uranium and reactor-grade uranium. I believe reactor grade is 3-4% and weapons grade is 80+%. In short: what he was building couldn’t explode. And @ broken scope, No you cant build a bomb with alot of low grade material, it wont work – the mass is too big and it would take some serious (ie near impossible, if not completely impossible) work to get it to critical mass. So assuming he was using reactor grade or natural uranium, there was almost no threat. I will say it again:

    What he was building could not explode

  11. 0
    meh says:


    You sound like one of those people who’s totally obsessed with safety and “national security”. But you know what, he was totally within his rights, even if he was your neighbor. Then again I’m sure if you found out you would call the cops on him. The world is not some perfect place, and it is not the job of the government to babysit everyone to the point of “don’t touch that its hot”.

  12. 0

    […] A Texas man who is best described as ‘an out-of-work computer whiz who redesigns video games’ has been visited by the FBI for attempting to build a small-scale nuclear reactor in his basement. Fascinated by the lure of nuclear power, the man had, on his blog, talked about being in possession of uranium, which drew the interest of the Bureau, who came and investigated. The good news is that the man wasn’t found guilty of doing anything illegal. The bad news is that they took his reactor away, which means he’s going to have to start again. Or not. We’re guessing the FBI made it quite clear that this was a visit they didn’t want to have to make again, lest our friend the game ‘redesigner’ become an unperson. ‘Nuff said? Gamer Builds Nuclear Reactor in Home; FBI Pays a Visit __________________ […]

  13. 0
    mk8 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    If this kid could do this out of his basement then I guess that since Iran is very powerful their scientist could have made something very powerful with their nuclear capability.

  14. 0
    Paul ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wow, all gamers are pants-on-head retarded, right? Because other wise one of them wouldn’t have been able to build a nuclear reactor on their own! (sarcasm)

  15. 0
    Erik ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This amuses me as Thompson has stated that Gamers are stupid to the level of not being able to understand basic English. Okay Thompson, we expect you to build your nuclear reactor soon. The clock is ticking. You don’t want to show that you are dumber than a gamer now do you?

  16. 0
    mottom22 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ anonymous

    Yes, it does. he says they were doing their job. they found out it was within reason at that time. would i have not wanted them to check on it? no. You qouting what he said is what i already stated. i don’t view this as fear mongering. i view it as someone who said they were doing something they probably shouldn’t have. they checked it out, it was ok but it was good to make sure. take the thing away he shouldn’t really have in the first place, to which he admits, end of story. no harm done. I just meant i wouldn’t want them to just brush it off all because they don’t know he knows what he is doing. I had no complaints, just to those who think this was wrong of them to check up on. it was well within reason to, it was their job to, as you qouted, the end.

  17. 0
    Anonymous says:

    @ mottom22,

    I am anonymous, it doesn’t look like it means anything but it does.

    It simplifies things. Call me anonymous rather than a paraphase please, it works better for post referal.

    And about your complaints:

    “They’re just doing their job,” the man said. “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.”

    That about sums it up.

  18. 0
    Tempest says:

    Well there is Toshiba’s Micro Nuclear Reactor… just search any engine for it. it will be COMMERcially available to anyone soon.

    You mean this thing?

    It sure would be nice to only have to pay roughly $50/year for a self-sustaining electrical supply… but what are the chances any municipality in the nation lets you put one in? Heck, many places don’t even let you install geothermal heat pumps without a special hard-to-get license.

    It’s like a license to own a 50 cal. rifle. Sure you can legally get one, but good luck finding anyone who will give you one.

  19. 0
    Tom says:

    E. Zachary Night:

    It is not always true that one cannot sell the excess power to the state. Several states have laws that require the re-purchase of excess power at precisely the cost that private users pay. Most have a grid-tie meter that can run backwards. While most of your statements were true, it is legal to produce your own fuel for your own use that is not transported, sold or used to power machinery that travels on public roads. This means that you can make biodiesel for use in your home furnace or your farm’s tractors but not for your truck which is licensed to run on the roads unless you pay taxes on the fuel which is still much cheaper than paying for it at the pumps.

  20. 0
    mottom22 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ guy with no name

    yea it doubled, but he wasn’t done. you don’t know the guy do you? have you hung out with him? does he have the training? does he have back ups to ensure saftey? I doubt you know ANY of this, and neither do I. so why risk having a guy who may or may not mess a whole lot of shit up. would he stop just knowing he can? or will he keep going to see how much he can do? I know the rise in cancer rate is also related to the rise in cancer detection, just like the rise in STD’s and the rise in drugs. you are just hearing about it more. but this is something no one person should be doing on their own. he even said it himself that it is something that should be done in a university with people. he just seemed to do it for shits and giggles it seems. do I know that for sure? no. do you know that for sure? no. but why risk it all because he may or may not be an ok guy.

    I hate it when people scream foul when police/fbi barge into someones place because of probable cause and a warrent. even this guy said they were only doing their job and he was ok with it. that kinda shows he may be an ok guy, but before this happened would anyone have known that for sure? probably not. so, again, why risk such a thing that may effect people living around him?

  21. 0
    ICEJACKEL says:

    Can someone please clear something up for me. COD:4 was just released correct or no? I have it so, I just wanted to make sure. From WarOtters post, what wiki said this was back in 94′. COD:4 was out then.

  22. 0
    RuddigerPez says:

    There are different types of radiation. The type that you could detect in a banana, soil, or water is NOT the same kind that results from nuclear fission. I’m talking alpha, beta, and gamma radiation…if someone already mentioned this…sorry, but I was too lazy to read all of the posts…

  23. 0
    broken scope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Sly fox

    You can make a nuke with uranium. You can also make it with plutonium, and weapons grade plutonium.

    The higher the grade the less of the material you need for a bomb.

    Quite frankly, its not that damn hard to make a nuke. It won’t be elegant, clean, compact, high yield, or guaranteed to work. The best part is, if it doesn’t work you have a plain old dirty bomb, which is nasty on its own.

  24. 0
    broken scope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    You typically have to feed it back into the grid. Actually it may also have something to do with zoning laws.

    Part of the issue is zoning laws. 2 houses can’t share the same power tap because of the zoning. However a group of town houses can. Large apartment building can have individual metering or the whole building metering.

    Sometimes you will see neighborhoods forming co-ops to get better deals on power, they collectively pay, then give everyone access to the same pool. This actually becomes a necessity in some more rural areas.

  25. 0
    Anonymous says:

    @ mottom22,

    He stated that the nuclear background in his house doubled. That’s nothing, I live (like one of the commentors here, Soldat Louis I think) in Brittany. The rock under us is granit. The average radioactivity here is twice what you would get in, say, Paris, or London.

    That’s no threat. What is a threat is called panic mongering. See Greenpeace, they started out with noble objectives but now…

    Also, I think you might be amused to know that the wave of cancers in Western Europe associated with some events linked to the plot of STALKER happens to have started before the actual accident. It’s not genetic premonition, it’s progress in cancer detection.

  26. 0
    mottom22 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I don’t see the big deal about this except maybe the mention of him being a gamer. which isn’t even an issue in this report, but video games are competition to TV so of course they would mention it. But I am glad they took away his reactor project. I dunno about you but I wouldn’t want to live next to a house that may or may not give me cancer all because the dude was “bored” or “interested” in nuclear power. Its like a five year old being interested in fire, no one in their right mind would want him playing with it, let alone making it in his basement. If he knew what he was doing, whatever. But I don’t know the guy, and even the smartest people on earth make mistakes. its wether you are alive after such mistakes that makes a difference.

  27. 0
    TheGreg says:

    Ok. So we are fine with Iran (who wants to eliminate the US and Isreal, thos silly people!) haveing nuclear reactors (a krap ton of centrafuges and whatnot and yes i know i’m butchering the spelling but i’m tired) for civilian power, but one kid in the US does it and we have to send the goon squad to interogate him?

    Yes, our founding fathers must be so proud.

  28. 0
    Guiguibob80 says:

    This is only step 2 of the gamers masterplan,

    Step 1 Train an army through murder simulators
    Step 2 Build Nuclear Reactors to get WMD
    Step 3 Take over the world

    They should be worried
    Very worried
    Because soon they won’t be able to stop us

  29. 0
    Muninn ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I noticed the same thing too. I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal that they visited him, because they only ended up taking it away at the request of his parents. They were only there to make sure nothing was going to explode.
    The woes of the home power supply aside, I dislike that they included him being a video gamer in the media report. That seems completely unrelated, and the only reason I can see for that fact being included is the media trying to reinforce the “gamers are weird and we want nothing to do with them” mindset.

  30. 0
    broken scope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I tried to do what he did and get a sample of every stable element on the periodic table then glue them to a large periodic table.

    Some of the stuff aint easy to get.

  31. 0
    tallimar ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    has no one picked up on this little tidbit?

    “The feds did, however, take the man’s reactor project with them when they left, at the request of his parents.”

    his parents wanted that reactor out of the house, i dont think the feds cared as much. ‘course that’s just my interpretation.

  32. 0
    JuiceHandy says:

    @ E. Zachary Knight

    I don’t know which state you live in, but I have solar panels at my home and during the summer when I generate more power than I consume, the power company buys back the extra electricity I feed into the grid.

  33. 0
    broken scope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Many of the nuke plants in the united states are privately run.

    The Nuclear regulatory Commission is just that, a Regulatory group that the government created to watch and enforce standards in the nuclear power industry.

  34. 0
    AM ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Monkeythumbs: No, power here is not nationalized. Nuclear power especially, though, is incredibly highly regulated, and I’m fairly confident there are mandatory government employees at every nuclear plant.

    “It’s interesting that the TV news report makes so much of the man’s gaming, even showing him playing Call of Duty 4 at his PC.”

    @GP: No it’s not. I’d stop short of saying they have an AGENDA, but the MSM still goes to some lengths to portray gaming as abnormal. There’s no surprise here at all. You’ve got a person doing something the average viewer would be shocked by/not want in their neighborhood, so the fact that he games is raised clearly. It’s SOP.

  35. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 1 ) says:

    @ Nightwing

    My thoughts exactly.

    @ Monkeythumbs

    Energy is privatised, but heavily under the direct supervision of the government. They get paid large dues and taxes from energy companies. If private citizens are creating their own power, they have to pay taxes on it.

    If you are caught building your own nuclear reactor to power your home or your own bio-fuel to fuel your car, they will confiscate if you don’t pay the heavy taxes. Chances are that you will be unable to pay those taxes.

    Also in the US, if you do manage to get a liscense to power your own house (it is possible, but I don’t know of anyone who is totally independent of outside power) you cannot, as a private citizen, make more power than you can personally use. You have to give any excess power back to the state without any compensation. You cannot even give that power to your neighbors as that is outside the liscense.

    It sucks horribly.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  36. 0
    C'tri says:

    so thats the news people, COD4 official trains you in the creation of nuclear bombs! *hysteria*

    i give this guy kudos for building a nuclear reactor, rising energy prices are a bugger these days, however i suspect he’d’ve had more luck if he’d not posted this information, finished it, patent’d it, got a small piece of land out in the open, and set up his own energy company.

    why, i ask, do the news make so much of gamers being smart?
    direct comparrison of smartness with ‘he who must not be named’ and the average gamer, and we win.

    actually, the unmentionable one is quite smart, just lacking in wisdom/plain common sense.

  37. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    (1) Individual is intelligent enough to build own reactor.
    (2) Government wants sole Rights to nuclear power.
    (3) Government wants to infringe on citizen’s IP Rights to creating their own personal power source.
    (4) Government links video games to being evil.
    (5) Government links intelligent citizen who can build a reactor to video games.
    (6) Government deems intelligent citizen who can build a reactor an “evil genius” because video games are evil and citizen plays video games.
    (7) Government confiscates reactor and “leaks” (no pun intended) to the news media that they have stormed the home of an “evil genius” (because he played video games and video games are evil) and taken away his nuclear bomb… er… reactor.
    (8) Government has successfully violated IP Rights of citizen and assured that they are the only ones with power to bill citizens for nuclear energy.

    NW2K Software

  38. 0
    Cheeselikesceareal says:

    “[Radiation is] in your tap water, you know, in the dirt. You could hold a Geiger counter up to a banana and get a count off of it. People do it in universities all the time. It’s just not usual that somebody does it outside of a university.”

    I hate to get all scientiffical, but that is semi-true. Radation is everywhere, but not in the amounts one finds in a reactor.

  39. 0
    broken scope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You know i think it was some kid a few years back that made a small device the could start fusion of a small amount of deuterium. Apparently its a rather common home brew project.

    IN other news, radiation not quite as dangerous as anti nuclear hysteria has convinced people it is, film at 11.

  40. 0
    Conejo ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    also only gamers are dangerous, as we all know since all other criminals have since retired their naughty ways and crochet for a living.

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