The True Story Of David Hahn, The ‘Nuclear Boy Scout’

2024-02-24 14:06:39

David Hahn caught the eye of the FBI and the Nuclear Regulatory Fee after he tried to construct a “breeder” reactor in a Michigan potting shed within the mid-Nineties.

David Hahn

YouTube/Bizarre Historical pastDavid Hahn, the so-called “Radioactive Boy Scout,” pictured in entrance of the shed by which he tried to construct a nuclear reactor.

In 1995, a teenage boy scout in Michigan named David Hahn attracted the eye of native authorities in his Detroit suburb. Hahn caught the regulation’s eye when suspicious supplies had been present in his automobile. However additional investigation revealed a collection of yard science experiments, together with the teenager’s try to construct a working nuclear reactor.

Achieved with supplies he had at hand, Hahn managed to efficiently create a home made neutron supply in an on a regular basis yard shed — and almost irradiated his complete neighborhood.

Hahn had been fascinated with science since childhood. Desiring to create a breeder reactor in 1995, the consequence was lower than supposed, however sufficient to seize nationwide consideration. That is the unbelievable true story of David Hahn — extra popularly generally known as the “Radioactive Boy Scout” or the “Nuclear Boy Scout.”

David Hahn, The ‘Nuclear Boy Scout’

David Hahn The Boy Scout

YouTubeA younger David Hahn sporting a benefit badge sash.

David Hahn tried to construct his home made nuclear reactor when he was solely 17, in accordance with FBI records. Carried out in his step-mother’s yard in Commerce Township, Michigan, the experiments had been run in close to secrecy.

Virtually a wunderkind, Hahn started finding out chemistry at age 10 and had fabricated nitroglycerin by 14. Earlier than making an attempt to construct his reactor, Hahn tarnished his bed room together with his experiments, so his dad and mom moved his work to their basement, earlier than selecting the shed.

Hahn gathered data by contacting the Nuclear Regulatory Fee, hoping to achieve perception into the steps of constructing a breeder reactor. Generally, Hahn was in a position to collect the data he wanted with the assistance of aliases and canopy tales.

Hahn’s curiosity in making a breeder reactor was fueled by many issues. The teenager examine chemical experiments fervently, educating himself learn how to manipulate reactions, and was awarded a benefit badge for atomic power in 1991. He supplemented his sensible analysis with lengthy research periods at his native library

The flames of Hahn’s fascination had been fanned by two obsessive targets, one being the duty of making a breeder reactor; the opposite, of gathering every ingredient on the periodic desk — no matter radioactivity.

For Hahn, the creation of a home made nuclear reactor would have been a more complex task than making a home made breeder reactor. Each requiring harmful supplies, breeder reactors make the most of the extra out there chemical isotope Uranium-238 — the chemical ingredient thorium — whereas nuclear reactors might solely use the scarcer Uranium-235.

Whereas the uranium utilized in nuclear reactors are readily fissionable, Uranium-238 and thorium are extra out there.

And so, using home goods and a lead block as a stand-in reactor, Hahn set to work. He collected thorium from lanterns, radium from clocks, tritium from gunsights, and lithium from $1,000 value of batteries he purchased himself.

Hahn additionally employed espresso filters and pickle jars to deal with harmful and doubtlessly lethal chemical compounds. The shortage of safety, save for his fuel masks, tragically, was later mentioned to have affected Hahn’s life expectancy.

Throughout his shed-bound experiments, Hahn persevered by unintentional burns on his pores and skin, turning his hair inexperienced, and mistakenly inflicting himself to cross out.

When the experiment met its threshold, Hahn had created a crude neutron supply. Whereas unable to provide fissionable gas on the charge of different reactors, the the Boy Scout’s experiment was already spreading detectable radiation a number of homes away.

David Hahn’s Experiments Entice The Mistaken Variety Of Consideration

The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments

Jim WestDavid Hahn posing with The Golden E-book of Chemistry Experiments, a e book that formed his pursuits.

As detected by David Hahn’s personal Geiger counter, his experiment proved radioactive by the point it was disassembled — and left 40,000 city residents doubtlessly in danger.

Police situated Hahn’s shed after stopping the younger teen for unrelated causes. Discovering suspicious supplies in his trunk, the scout knowledgeable the officers the content material was radioactive. From there, it didn’t take lengthy to uncover the shed and its affect on Hahn’s neighborhood.

The native police contacted the federal authorities, main the Environmental Safety Company to Hahn’s doorstep. Those that entered Hahn’s shed lab had been warned by a misspelled “Caushon” signal on the wall.

Inside, authorities discovered proof of Hahn’s harmful hobbies. The remnants of the experiment and supplies collected posed quite a few well being dangers, and the EPA declared the property a Superfund hazardous supplies cleanup website.

Regardless of insistence from officers, Hahn refused to be medically evaluated following the lengthy durations he spent round radioactive supplies. Since his experiment befell with minimal safety, Hahn’s life expectancy was possible shortened after the incident.

Following the lab’s dismantling, Hahn achieved his Eagle Scout rank regardless of efforts to rob him of the honour on account of his harmful experiment. Nevertheless, no matter what progress he made, Hahn had bother discovering course following the experiment’s fallout.

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“I used to be very emotional as a child, and people experiments gave me a strategy to get away from that. They gave me some respect,” Hahn informed Harpers Magazine in 1998.

The Unhappy Last Years Of The Radioactive Boy Scout

David Hahn and half-brother Kevin

Kenneth HahnDavid Hahn and his half-brother, Kevin.

The collapse of his experiment, turmoil from a failed relationship, and his mom’s suicide every contributed to “Nuclear Boy Scout” David Hahn’s despair, in accordance with Ars Technica. Looking for his place on the earth after the disastrous occasions in his yard, he tried his hand in school and the army, largely on the request of his father and step-mother.

Hahn served in each america Navy and america Marine Corps, however solely discovered new problems with psychological well being as he grew older.

Following his authentic experiment’s disassembly, Hahn as soon as once more attracted the police’s consideration a decade later. Suspected of making one other reactor and storing it in his freezer, Hahn was arrested in 2007 for stealing some detectors.

The units had been taken from the house complicated Hahn was staying in. The theft was important for the small quantities of radioactive americium discovered within the smoke detectors. Since americium was present in larger quantities in Hahn’s shed in 1995, authorities evacuated residents for 5 hours — fearing the notorious former Boy Scout was at it once more.

On the time of the incident, police had already been monitoring Hahn and monitoring the area for radioactivity. Coinciding together with his return to the realm, authorities took word that Hahn had begun promoting a e book written about his experiment.

With their eyes already fastened on Hahn, the police had been fast to arrest him on account of his theft. Sixteen smoke detectors throughout Hahn’s constructing and one other in his complicated had gone lacking. Police discovered further empty smoke detectors close to Hahn’s trash.

Following his arrest, David Hahn pleaded responsible to tried larceny of a constructing and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. And a couple of decade later, Hahn died from a mixture of alcohol, diphenhydramine, and fentanyl. The “Nuclear Boy Scout” was simply 39 years outdated.


After studying about David Hahn and his makes an attempt to construct a nuclear reactor, be taught extra about The Chernobyl disaster. Then, examine Hisashi Ouchi, who sustained the worst radiation burns in history.



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