Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Radioactive Boy Scout


David Hahn – Radioactive Boy Scout

In Golf Manor, Michigan, around 40 kilometres from Detroit, a boy named David Hahn who was also called the `Radioactive Boy Scout’ or `the Nuclear Boy Scout’, was very much fascinated with chemistry. He seemed to be a normal boy in most respect, playing sports and was a member of the Boy Scouts.

He attempted to construct a homemade breeder nuclear reactor in 1994 at the age of 17. David seemed to be interested in chemistry right from the age of 10 and began reading his father’s college textbooks on chemistry and conducted his experiments in secret in his father’s basement.

After a particular incident in the basement of his father, David was compelled to move his operation to his mother’s backyard shed in Clinton Township, Michiganthough it did not stop there. He decided to take his interest still further and started developing cover stories, forming faked identity, claiming to be a high school instructor of physics.

He wrote to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission –NRC using his identity and received a reply by the agency’s director of isotope production and distribution. He was told about isolating and obtaining radioactive elements and some isotopes which could sustain a chain reaction when bombarded with neutrons, by the director.

Received Merit Badge in Atomic Energy

Being fascinated by chemistry, he had spent years conducting amateur chemistry experiments which at times resulted in explosions as well as other mishaps. He was motivated on reading `The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments’ and collected samples of all elements which included the radioactive ones.

Later on he had received a merit badge in Atomic energy and was fascinated with the idea of creating a breeder reactor in his home. He carefully accumulated radioactive material by collecting small quantity from household products like americium from smoke detectors, thorium from camping lanterns mantles, radium from clocks and tritium from gunsights.

A bored out block of lead was his reactor and he had used lithium from $1,000 worth of purchased batteries in order to purify the thorium ash utilising a Bunsen burner. Hahn observed that small amount of radioactive isotope, americium 241, was used in smoke detectors. He got in touch with smoke detector companies and one of them sold about 100 broken detectors for $1 each to him.

Radioactive Equipment Impounded

Most of the components which David used for his nuclear reactor were from several common items he had collected. On August 31, 1994, after an encounter with the police, he was found with a toolbox which according to him was radioactive and the police feared that the toolbox bound with a padlock and duct tape could be a nuclear bomb.

 The Federal Radiological Emergency response plan was put into action and the EPA as well as the NRC also got involved. The EPA moved in on David’s radioactive shed on June 26, 1995 and impounded all his radioactive equipment together with the materials.

He had exposed his neighbours to almost 1,000 times, normal amount of background radiation. In 2007, David was arrested for stealing smoke detectors from an apartment complex where he had lived. His face seemed to be covered in sores perhaps due to the radiation contact.

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