Skip to comments.Man Dubbed 'Radioactive Boy Scout' Pleads Guilty
Posted on 08/28/2007 1:17:02 AM PDT by Westlander
A man who became the subject of a book called "The Radioactive Boy Scout" after trying to build a nuclear reactor in a shed as a teenager pleaded guilty Monday in a theft case.
David Hahn, 31, had been charged in the theft of 16 smoke detectors. Police in the Detroit suburb of Macomb County's Clinton Township said it was a possible effort to experiment with radioactive materials.
During a Circuit Court hearing, Hahn pleaded guilty to attempted larceny of a building. The court's online docket said prosecutors recommended that he be sentenced to time served and enter an inpatient treatment facility.
Under terms of the plea, the original charge of larceny of a building would be dismissed at sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 4.
Investigators say Hahn was arrested Aug. 1 after a maintenance worker saw him stealing a detector from a ceiling in an apartment complex where he lived. They later found the other detectors in his apartment in Clinton Township.
Hahn learned that a small amount of a radioactive isotope could be found in smoke detectors during his experiments in the 1990s, according to a 1998 article in Harper's Magazine that later expanded into a book by journalist Ken Silverstein.
Why doesn’t he go get a degree in something? Plenty of universities let you play with that stuff, even as undergraduates.
I’m beginning to think this guy needs to be locked up permanently. he just never seems to learn his lesson. He seems to have the desire to experiment but not the necessary knowledge.
seems like he’ll be dead pretty soon..
Methheads look like that too.
First off, he did not build a reactor. That describes a specific piece of nuclear engineering technology that involves being able to create a self-sustaining fission reaction. He was nowhere even close to that.
This is just a case of a kid not knowing what he was doing randomly experimenting with low level radioactive materials. People like to pretend that he was a genius, but he is closer to a Darwin award candidate (for playing with beryllium). He tried to make an Am-241/Be neutron source but he never read up on the efficiency of a neutron source produced by alphas hitting beryllium. It is extremely inefficient (about 70 neutrons per 10^6 alphas). And the efficiency of activating Th-232 isn't high either (with a cross section of only about 7 barns). He never had decent results because each 1 microcurie smoke detector source would emit at maximum about 2.6 neutrons/s in random directions--if it was perfectly installed by an engineer or physicist. You can do the math but even with 50 smoke detectors the probability of activating thorium with one neutron and then being lucky later with another neutron to fission U-233 is a pipe dream even if he let the experiment run for years.
Eventually the government had to come in and remove all of the low level waste he was playing with.
Huh? How does one steal a building?
By the way, there's a Harper's magazine article about this guy's earlier exploits. I read it at the archive.org cached copy here.
From that posted picture, it doesn't look as if Mr. Kahn will be around all that much longer.
‘When David’s Geiger counter began picking up radiation five doors from his mom’s house, he decided that he had “too much radioactive stuff in one place” and began to disassemble the reactor.’
So is this article bogus and why is his skin fried? Sure is not acne. I’m no physicist, just curious. He looks worse than I did after a month under a Varian Linear Accelerator for treatment reasons. My background is 30 years in Radiology, so I find this interesting.
(Thanks for the illustrated correction ... ;-)
So is this article bogus and why is his skin fried? Sure is not acne. Im no physicist, just curious. He looks worse than I did after a month under a Varian Linear Accelerator for treatment reasons. My background is 30 years in Radiology, so I find this interesting.
I was a reactor operator for a pressurized nuclear reactor on a submarine. One of the most important parts of my job included maintaining and operating neutron detectors and neutron test sources. I also have a background in physics (after my time in the Navy). I have built, operated, and maintained many different types of nuclear test equipment including scintillation counters, various types of neutron detectors, ion chambers, as well as handheld alpha, beta/gamma, and neutron detectors. I have also worked under radiological controls and am completely familiar with contamination surveys and radiation surveys.
I am surprised that you take the 5 doors down statement at face value. If we assume a point source and suppose 5 doors down means something like 30 meters, then the intensity at 1 meter would be 900 times higher. On contact (typically assumed to be about 5 cm) would be 360,000 times higher. Even if his GM detector had a range down to 0.01 mrad/hr it would still be measuring 3.6 rad/hr on contact. This is not likely for many reasons, including my discussion before where I doubt that he would be able to fission U-233 with his microcurie (alpha) Am-241/Be neutron sources in the first place (which would be the *only* possible expanation for 3.6 rad/hr on contact other than stealing a radiography source). If that 5 doors down statement is true then it is likely he tracked some contamination with him, probably on his hands and his inexperience in operating a GM detector. As for how he looks, it is probably a combination of poisoning from the thorium and beryllium that he was playing with and perhaps other chemicals and toxic metals that we haven't learned about. It may also be due to ingested contamination. A 1 microcurie alpha source doesn't mean much outside the body, but if it is ingested and can't be flushed from the body you are going to take massive biological damage.
Thank you for your reply. Answered some questions of mine. Yes, I am familiar with inverse square law. Thanks again.