The last 70 years of U.S. history are peppered with nuclear âincidentsâ youâve probably never heard of.
But this is hardly your fault, since, apart from the Three Mile Island core meltdown, mainstream media outlets tend to gloss over the literally dozens of lesser-known, radiologic horror stories that could be told. Itâs a shame, too, because there are some real doozies.
Like, for instance, guys getting pinned to reactor ceilings by ballistic control rods, fully-armed Poseidon missiles accidentally falling from cranes during transfer, 93 million gallons of uranium mine slurry gushing through the heart of Gallup, New Mexico.
The list just goes on and on.
One tale is especially alarming for its low-tech, D.I.Y., could-be-happening-again-next-door-right-now flavor. Letâs call it âThe Eagle Scout Who Turned His Momâs House into a Superfund Site."
âBe Preparedââ¦ For David Hahn
David Hahn was a Boy Scout with a penchant for amateur chemistry and atomic energy. In 1994, this combination would prove disastrous when, at the age of 17, he attempted to construct a breeder reactor in his momâs shed.
Now, as the great Dr. Emmit Brown once said, high quality fissile material "is a little hard to come by"-even in the 90âs. Â So Hahn was forced to make-do with mildly radioactive components scavenged from smoke detectors, camp lanterns and old clocks. A hollowed-out block of lead was to serve as the reactor hull itself.
It was a nasty stew to say the least but not nasty enough to reach critical mass. In the end, all the ambitious scout succeeded in doing was to emit a great deal of dangerous radiation into the local environment, his own body included.
When the authorities finally became wise to the young man's activities, the contamination was so severe that the Environmental Protection Agency was called in to orchestrate the clean-up effort. They designated Hahnâs motherâs property a Superfund Site.
âDo A Good Turn Dailyââ¦ Or Steal Smoke Detectors
Some learn from their nuclear mistakes; some donât. Some scouts stay true to the official honor code, while others backslide spectacularly. Hahn, unfortunately, seems to have opted for the latter in both cases.
He was busted in 2007 for hoarding smoke detectors stolen from his apartment complex. In the official mugshot, his face is covered with burn blisters thought to be due to excessive radiation exposure.
- The Radioactive Boy Scout: When a Teenager Attempts to Build a Breeder Reactor (Ken Silverstein-Harpers)
- Radioactive Boy Scout Sentenced to 90 Days for Stealing Smoke Detectors (Fox News)
- Nuclear Accidents (HyperPhysics-Georgia State)
- Idaho: Runaway Reactor (Time)