David Hahn is an American man who attempted to build a homemade nuclear reactor when he was 17-years-old. As a youth, Hahn became a member of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1994, he was working towards gaining a merit badge in Atomic Energy, and started tinkering with some deadly elements. His experiment began when Hahn decided to gain samples of every element in the periodic table, including the radioactive ones. Over the span of a couple years, David Hahn gathered many deadly chemicals by extracting them from household products. He removed americium from smoke detectors, thorium from camping lantern mantles, radium from clocks and tritium from gun sights. Hahn’s used a large, bored-out block of lead for his reactor. He used lithium from $1,000 worth of purchased batteries to purify the thorium ash using a Bunsen burner.

David Hahn hoped to create a breeder nuclear reactor. He conducted his experiment in secret, in a backyard shed at his mother’s house in Commerce Township, Michigan. As you would expect from a teenager, Hahn frequently encountered problems with his work, often resulting in small explosions. His homemade reactor never achieved critical mass, but did create huge amounts of radioactivity, estimated at over 1,000 times the normal level. David Hahn understood the danger of his work and was in the process of dismantling the project when radioactive material was discovered in his car by the police. This triggered a Federal Radiological Emergency Response involving the FBI and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It was soon discovered by researchers that the radioactive materials were starting to spread around Hahn’s neighborhood.

On June 26, 1995, the United States Environmental Protection Agency designated David Hahn’s mother’s property as a hazardous materials cleanup site. The shed was dismantled and its contents were shipped and buried at a low-level radioactive waste site in Utah. At that time, Hahn refused medical evaluation for radiation exposure. He did this even after being told that he might have exceeded the lifetime dosage for thorium exposure. In 2007, David Hahn was arrested on charges of larceny for allegedly stealing the smoke detectors from the halls of his apartment building. At that time, investigators noticed that Hahn’s face was covered with sores that indicated radiation poisoning. He was treated for radiation exposure and given a 90-day prison term.

Sadly, it appears that David Hahn’s life may be cut short due to the mass amounts of radiation he was exposed to.




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