The Boy Scout Who Attempted To Make A Nuclear Reactor

“Scouting is a man’s job cut down to a boy’s size.” —Robert Baden-Powell

In A Nutshell

In the mid-90s, a boy from Michigan attempted to make a nuclear reactor in his backyard shed. He exposed his neighbors to high amounts of radiation and was eventually stopped by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Whole Bushel

David Hahn was born in Golf Manor, Michigan, about 40 kilometers (25 mi) from Detroit. David seemed like a normal boy in most respects. He played several sports and was a member of the Boy Scouts. David took an interest in chemistry around age 10 and then started to read his father’s college chemistry textbooks. After an incident in the basement of his father and stepmother’s basement, David was forced to move his operations to his mother’s backyard shed. But he didn’t stop there.

David decided to take his interests to the next level. He started to develop cover stories and even formed a fake identity, claiming to be a high school physics instructor. David wrote to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) using his identity, and was answered by the agency’s director of isotope production and distribution. The director told him about isolating and obtaining radioactive elements, and told him about some isotopes that can sustain a chain reaction when bombarded with neutrons.

Hahn found out that small amount of a radioactive isotope, known as americium-241, was used in smoke detectors. He contacted smoke detector companies and one sold him about 100 broken detectors for $1 apiece.

All of the components that Hahn used for his attempted nuclear reactor came from many common items, including mantles from gas lanterns which contain thorium-232, and a clock that held a vial of radium paint. After blow-torching the mantles into a pile of ash, he isolated the thorium by using the lithium from $1,000 worth of batteries.

After an encounter with the police on August 31, 1994, David was found with a toolbox that he said was radioactive. The police feared that the toolbox, which was bound with a padlock and duct tape, was a nuclear bomb. The Federal Radiological Emergency response plan was put into action and eventually the EPA and NRC were involved.

On June 26, 1995, the EPA moved in on David Hahn’s radioactive shed, and confiscated all of his radioactive equipment and materials. He exposed his neighbors to nearly 1,000 times the normal amount of background radiation.

More recently, in 2007, David Hahn was arrested for stealing smoke detectors from the apartment complex where he lived. His face was covered in sores apparently from radioactive contact.

Show Me The Proof

Harper’s Magazine: Tale of the Radioactive Boy Scout
Vsauce: Cruel Bombs (video)

  • Andyman7714

    Has congress considered sanctions against David Hahn?

    • Jub

      No but they invaided the neighbours, set up a puppet government and stole all of their oil, leaving the household to disent into secterian violence.

      • Chester

        Michigan mine as well be a 3rd world country.

        • Jub

          Never been and based on that comment i may never go….

  • cornmayor

    Reminds me of Sheldon from the big bang theory.

  • Pyncky

    I have seen pictures of the kid. His face is covered with so many sores he looked like a meth addict.

  • The Ou7law

    He may have been a little deviant, but you have to admit the kid was one smart SOB

    • Hadeskabir

      Look how beautiful his smartness made him

      • The Ou7law

        I know what he looks like man. He has been on a top 10 list already, he sure ruined his face though didnt he

        • Hadeskabir

          I’ve never seen his pretty face until yesterday. He looks like a terminal patient. I can only presume that he isn’t a big hit with the ladies.

          • The Ou7law

            Yeah with a face like that its a face not even a mother could love

      • Mom424

        I dunno. That picture looks suspiciously the same as many a methamphetamine addict. They pick and worry holes into their own skin.

        • Hadeskabir

          Maybe he was taking methamphetamines while making a nuclear reactor.

  • William

    Is the kid on the stamp doing the Hunger Games sign?

    • Marozia

      Other way around! Hunger Games are using the Scout/Freemasonic sign.
      Is this David Hahn still alive and glowing?

  • sophoncharoenpura

    remind me to one of my old friend. he is a typical nerd but have some brain, he improve his knowledge on drugs by reading books from libraries, so he getting more and more intelligent,he was even capable to extract meth from leaves and from some chemical he stole from labs at age13yo. he makes some money by selling drugs but dies at age 14. poor him.

  • Sumesh Sudhakaran

    One word ——- Brilliant

  • Hadeskabir

    I wonder why was he interest in creating a nuclear reactor? When I was a kid I used to make remote controlled cars and boats, but I never tried to make a nuclear reactor.

    • Hadeskabir

      I’m just joking. I’m too stupid to make a working paper airplane.

      • Hadeskabir

        How the hell did you create an account exactly like mine?

        • Ian Moone

          At first I thought you were talking to yourself.

          • Hadeskabir

            I’m not that crazy lol I have no idea how the hell he created an account exactly like mine. The only difference is the pic, on the top of his pic there’s a blurry line. When I first saw the comment I too thought I was talking to myself lol

          • lbatfish

            “You’re never alone when you’re a schizophrenic”
            –Jefferson Airplane

          • lbatfish

            As a long-shot possible explanation, does anybody know if we’ve switched over to the new commenting system yet? Still looks the same to me . . . .

          • Hadeskabir

            You will know when it changes because your account wont work.

          • Karmala

            See? Click me.

          • Hadeskabir

            Yup xD

  • Josh

    At that age I was too busy trying to figure out how to clear the static from the blocked “adult” channels…