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ReInventors

Meet the Man With a Nuclear Reactor in his Basement

In the basement of a house on a quiet residential street in a suburb just outside of Seattle resides the ultimate home science experiment — a nuclear fusion reactor.

July 18, 2018

The basement of a quiet residential street in Federal Way, Wash. hides the ultimate home science experiment — a nuclear fusion reactor. Microsoft IT manager Carl Greninger created Northwest Nuclear Laboratories, a space in his home for local high school to conduct their own research projects on the device. The hope: to cultivate the next generation of nuclear scientists and problem solvers. Every week, Carl Greninger invites a group of local high school students over to setup and conduct their own research projects on the nuclear reactor. The device is used to explore oncology, material science energy and quantum mechanics.

The bottom part of the reactor, ordered from NASA off of eBay, was used during the assembly of the Columbia space shuttle. Greninger and his students cleaned it, took it apart, had it painted at an autobody shop and brought it back to life. 

In this episode of Reinventors, host Katie Herzog visits Greninger’s home to find out more about his nuclear fusion reactor and what it’s like to have it in his basement.

ReInventors is produced by KCTS 9 and PBS Digital Studios. Each episode features scientists, inventors and tinkerers who are reimagining the basic elements of our everyday lives.



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Sarah Hoffman

Sarah Hoffman is a science and environment producer for Crosscut and KCTS 9.

More stories by Sarah Hoffman