Yes, you have read correctly, and it is not a joke, it is a real news. All over the world there is an ever growing community of people who spend part or most of their free time to build a nuclear reactor: it is rightly called "extreme" DIY (acronym for Do It Yourself) and those amateurs are also called as "fusioneers". Let us see now what this project consists of, and the resources available on the web related to it.
First of all, we have to say that the nuclear fusion (the kind of nuclear reaction the fusioneers are interested in), could actually become an alternative (and low cost?) way to produce energy, especially in this period of energy crisis; oil will not last forever, so these types of projects (mostly when they are "open source") are welcome and we should encourage them.
Nuclear fusion is considered one of the best ways to produce energy: through it the atoms are forcedly joined together and, as a result, much energy is released. Moreover, it is clean and cheap (even though some objections could be moved regarding this topic); the problem is that, so far, nobody has been able to build a reactor which produces more energy than that required to make it work. In other words, the energy balance of such reactors has been negative, up to now. Consider also that nuclear fusion is the source of energy which runs continuously on the stars, and therefore on the Sun. The most widely types of fuels used in nuclear fusion are two kinds of hydrogen isotopes: deuterium and tritium. When the nuclei of the atoms involved in the reaction are forcedly joined together, at high temperatures and pressures, they form larger nuclei releasing energy: how to reproduce those conditions on the Earth is the main challenge the fusioneers are facing.
The story of Mr. Suppes
BBC News has recently published on the web an article (HERE) regarding the surprising story of Mark Suppes, a New York fusioneer who, during the day, is a web developer for the fashion giant Gucci, whereas during the night works in a warehouse to his nuclear fusion reactor. Mark Suppes, 32 years old, is the 38th fusioneer in the world to experience the nuclear fusion with a homemade reactor (the list includes also a 15 years old guy from Michigan). Yes, but what about the neighbours? Well, some of them could be a little worried, but this type of project is completely legal, in the U.S. (at least once all of the parts needed to build the reactor are legally obtained). Moreover, this kind of nuclear fusion does not use any "heavy" nuclear material (no uranium and no plutonium at all) so, as we will see later, there is no reason to be much worried about it. Mr. Suppes has initially invested about 35,000 US$ (from his own money) spent on eBay to buy the required parts, plus 4,000 US$ obtained by private investors. Mark Suppes’s dream is to build a break-even nuclear reactor, that is a reactor where an energy balance equal to zero, a very challenging task for an amateur. The following picture shows the reactor Mr. Suppes is working on.