'Radioactive Boy Scout' arrested

03 August 2007

David Hahn, 31, from Clinton Township, Michigan, has been accused of stealing smoke detectors containing americium. Hahn was previously described as "The Radioactive Boy Scout" after trying to make a thorium-based reactor in a shed at his mother's home when a 17-year old. Now 31, Hahn, was being held in the Macomb County Jail on charges of larceny from a building.


Hahn had recently returned to Clinton Township after service in the US Navy. He had reported been trying to drum up publicity for a book he had written.


After Hahn was arrested police searched his home. They found 16 smoke detectors. Police suspect Hahn was trying to extract the tiny amounts of americium-241 used in the smoke detectors. Amercium-241 is a radioactive silvery-white metal.


Hahn was first caught dealing with radioactive materials by police in 1994. He was driving a car containing components from a failed attempt to make a homemade nuclear reactor using traces of thorium extracted from camping gas mantles. Although the attempts were futile, Hahn became alarmed by the higher than background radiation levels and dismantled his apparatus and stored them in a toolbox.


Subsequently, the shed at his mother's home was designated a hazardous materials cleanup site and was dismantled and disposed of as low level radioactive waste.


Hahn acquired the nickname of "Radioactive Boy Scout" when he earned a merit badge in Atomic Energy. The Boy Scouts of America offered a badge in Atomic Energy for some years, but in 2005 this was superseded by a merit badge in Nuclear Energy.


Boy Scouts have to complete a number of tasks to earn the Nuclear Energy merit badge. Options include building a model of a nuclear reactor - showing the fuel, control rods, shielding, moderator and any cooling material and explaining how the energy from an atom can be used in nuclear medicine, environmental applications, industrial applications, space exploration, and radiation therapy.


Further information


Nuclear Science Merit Badge requirements 


WNA's Smoke Detectors and Americium information paper