The Odd Case of the Radioactive Kid Scout

We all have pastimes and pastimes, something we like to do to loosen up and better ourselves. When you have complimentary time, what do you do? Go out for a walk, possibly read a book, play sports, paint, or listen to music? Perhaps you spend your time building a nuclear reactor in your backyard? No? Well, in the 1990 s this was what one young high school kid took to doing in his spare time, and it is a case every bit as unusual as you might expect. This is the weird story of the Radioactive Kid Scout.

Building a nuclear reactor is a unusual option of pastime. Yet this is exactly what took place with 17- year-old David Hahn, who in 1994 was an Eagle Scout with the Young boy Scouts of America in Clinton Municipality, Michigan. He was for the most part primarily just a typical high school trainee, nothing especially special or extraordinary about him, but he was extremely active with the Kid Scouts, had an extreme interest in science and chemistry, performing experiments in his mom’s basement. At the time, he was looking to get his next huge benefit badge. In this case the merit badge was the Atomic Energy Benefit Badge, which yes, is really a thing. Well, Hahn desired that merit badge, and he went about getting it in magnificent fashion.

The first thing he had to do to start his misguided job to develop an actual working freaking nuclear reactor in his yard was to collect radioactive product. How does one go about this, you ask? Do they raid a nuclear storage site, make contact with Russian spies, what? Well, really, just take apart a entire lot of smoke detectors, camping lanterns, glow-in-the-dark enjoys, and other random home items, it would appear. Many smoke detectors include americium, outdoor camping lanterns include thorium- 232, glow-in-the-dark enjoys have trace quantities of radium-226 in them, and other products can be got from various common family items. For the layperson, these are in really little, harmless amounts in these products, however they are indeed radioactive as all get out, and when you amass thousands and thousands of them, as Hahn did from Army surplus shops and other sources, you have your standard components for developing a nuclear reactor. He likewise collected a huge number of gun sights, which include tritium, lithium from countless batteries, uranium (!) that he seems to have just ordered online from Czechoslovakia (wait, what?), and other expert grade laboratory products that he obtained, along with vital details on how to construct his task, by positioning as a scientist and physics instructor in letters to different scholastic organizations and even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who seemed to have actually been more than happy to walk him through the finer points of the process.

David Hahn

When he had collected what he required, Hahn went about trying to use low-level isotopes to change samples of thorium and uranium into fissionable isotopes in his mother’s yard in Commerce Municipality, Michigan. In the end, all held together with duct tape and not regulated in any method, he had his homemade reactor. Well, almost. It was expected to be what is called a “breeder reactor,” however was in the end more properly what is called a “neutron source,” as none of it was ever really fissile. What is was, however, was highly radioactive. Hahn quickly understood this with a Geiger counter he had procured, and he quickly found that this radiation was spreading throughout the block. Worried, he concealed the “reactor” in his vehicle’s trunk while he attempted to figure out what to do. Unfortunately, he was stopped by police on an unrelated event, and when they attempted to search his cars and truck he calmly told him that they need to be careful about the trunk because there was a nuclear reactor in there. Not a typical traffic stop, then.

The discovery immediately put into impact the Federal Radiological Emergency Situation Reaction Plan, and not just was the entire area left, however it was cleaned up up by the Ecological Defense Agency (EPA) as a Superfund clean-up site, costing the state around $60,000. Hahn’s laboratory was took apart, and the reactor itself was carefully taken to the Great Salt Lake Desert and buried far from civilization. Hahn, who in the media had got the nickname “The Radioactive Young Boy Scout,” got the benefit badge though, so it wasn’t a overall loss. He likewise had all criminal charges dropped. In the end, Hahn learned his lesson and it was all sort of brushed off as the goofy shenanigans of a kid, ideal? Well, not exactly.

Some of Hahn’s materials for his reactor

Hahn went on to sign up with the Navy and pursue a profession as a nuclear specialist, but this never did pan out, and he was required to go back to trying to do it himself. In April of 2007 he was examined by the FBI under suspicion that he had made a reactor that he kept in his kitchen area freezer. It came to light that Hahn had turned to drugs and had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and although no evidence was found at the time of an actual reactor, some witnesses claimed he was most definitely making one. The FBI kept eyes on Hahn, and in August of 2007 he was detained for larceny after getting caught attempting to take smoke detectors from his apartment or condo building in order to amass materials for his task. When he was brought in, Hahn was discovered to have a face covered with leaking sores, thought to have been from radiation direct exposure during his experiments. He would be sentenced to 90 days in prison and go through medical treatment for his condition. In 2016, David Hahn would die at the age of 39, after taking a mixed drink of alcohol, diphenhydramine, and fentanyl, which was considered an mishap.

It is a awful end to a young man who was either a genius, a madman, or both. It is really amazing that this kid managed to attain what he did. How is it that he was able to pull this off, and if he could do it, how many others might as well? Do you have a nuclear reactor sitting in your backyard or freezer? I know I put on’t, however I sure would like to understand who does. It is a rather shocking case that was unusually not very well reported on at the time, either by slipping through the fractures or by design, depending on who you ask. Why is it that this case was kind of brushed off? How is it that this young kid might handle to come so far along as to cause a bona fide nuclear emergency situation? It is all so troubling, but at least we can rest easy in understanding that the Boy Scout Atomic Energy Benefit Badge has because been ceased.


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