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In 2007, Iran's president claimed that nuclear scientists in the country verified that a 16-year-old girl had produced nuclear energy at home.
At the time, this ended up being a point of jokes and derision, and few (if any) people took it seriously.

However, recently I learned that, apparently, some high schoolers do build nuclear reactors at home!

So: is there a chance that the event actually did occur, but people just didn't believe him?
Or was he most likely making it up despite the apparent fact that this seems to be possible?

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    Calm down everyone. Please be kind and let people ask their questions. If you think you have an answer post an answer, not a comment. If you think this question should be closed, vote accordingly. If you just don't like it, down vote it. Please don't abuse the comments, consider this an official warning. – Sklivvz Jul 30 '16 at 22:54
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    Stupid question: Was it "legal", in 2007, in Iran, for a 16-year-old girl to receive the education necessary to construct a nuclear device? – Daniel R Hicks May 25 at 2:01
  • @DanielRHicks: I don't know, but it would've been just as "legal" as it would've been for a 16-year-old boy. – Mehrdad May 25 at 2:32
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    @Mehrdad - I'm unfamiliar with the specific laws and religious pressures in Iran. But I've seen numerous reports that, in some parts of the Mideast, girls are effectively blocked from any sort of "higher education". This is why I'm asking. – Daniel R Hicks May 25 at 12:23
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    @DanielRHicks: Yes I realized, that's why I addressed specifically that point. Western propaganda is rather good at fantastically misinforming people regarding Iran. Here's just a couple links to get you started (you should Google for more): "Young women in science are the rule, not the exception, in the Middle East"; 70% Of Iran's Science And Engineering Students Are Women. – Mehrdad May 25 at 12:31
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It depends on how you define "produced" and "nuclear energy". Without more details we can only speculate, but the possibilities are very limited.

The link you cite appears to be by someone who has constructed a Farnsworth Fusor (or possibly some variant on the same theme). These devices make interesting (if expensive and advanced) high school science projects, but the amount of energy they produce from fusion is always much less than the amount taken to drive them. It is most likely that this girl has done something similar. If so then the claim is theoretically sort-of true, but from a practical point of view it's really false as "produced nuclear energy" usually means getting more energy out than you put in.

Nobody has yet managed to produce net energy by fusion (except for H-bombs). There are serious attempts to do so, but they are some of the biggest of big science projects. I think we can discount the possibility that this has been accomplished by a hobbyist. If it had, it would literally change the world: no more global warming, every oil state goes bankrupt, probably every power company goes bankrupt too. And that's just for starters.

It is also very unlikely that this student has produced energy by fission. To do so would require enriched uranium or plutonium in significant amounts, and doing so at home would be hazardous in the extreme, not just to the people in the house but to anyone in the same city. The case of the radioactive Boy Scout is instructive. Note that Hahn never achieved criticality; merely trying to generate the fuel created serious contamination and exposed him to dangerous levels of radiation.

  • FYI the reason I'm not accepting this answer is that it's not an answer at all... you've merely noted that nuclear fusion is possible to do at home, which I noted as much in the question... and also I think it's fairly clear nobody was suggesting a 16-year-old suddenly produced net energy from fusion... – Mehrdad May 25 at 2:35
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    @Mehrdad That is your privilege, but you asked what was most likely, and I've answered the question. Unless more information becomes available I think that's the best that can be done. – Paul Johnson May 25 at 9:09
  • Mind that the main problem with fissionable material is its toxicity rather than its radiation (which, in contrast to the fission byproducts, isn't all that serious unless you bring it together into a critical mass), Plutonium being far worse there than Uranium, Getting enough of either to form a viable self sustaining nuclear reactor capable of a net energy output would require some serious problems with a nation's nuclear safety protocols. – jwenting May 27 at 6:01
  • @Mehrdad without seeing the device itself and talking to the girl, putting her through lie detector tests, etc. etc. etc. it's impossible to do more than ascertain the theoretical possibility. However I seriously doubt that in Iran (and indeed most any country) any civilian would have private access to the required technology and materials without drawing the attention of security services, especially post-9/11 – jwenting May 27 at 6:05
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    @Mehrdad I was commenting on Paul's assertion that a fission reactor is also theoretically possible. And no, fusion doesn't have to be Hydrogen. It's certainly the easiest but in theory most anything can be used. For example most fusion bombs use Lithium because it's more stable for long term storage and easier to handle (as it's solid at room temperature). – jwenting May 27 at 6:23

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