In 1995, then 17-year-old, “Eagle Scout”, David Hahn almost managed to complete a nuclear reactor in the backyard shed of his mother’s Michigan home.
When local authorities found out what he was doing they contacted the EPA who then notified the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the NRC, and the FBI. His home was turned into a Superfund site, which took a year to clean up.
He accumulated the radioactive material from old smoke detectors, household clocks, and various other commercial products. The smoke detectors had a radioactive substance in them called americium. The clocks used glow in the dark paint, (which has radium).
Hahn later served four years in the United States Navy, including service aboard the USS Enterprise, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. He also briefly served in the United States Marine Corps and then returned back to his home state.
What you don’t know:
Some glow in the dark paint is made possible from Radium.
- Radium emits:
- Alpha particles (two protons and two neutrons)
- Gamma particles (high energy photons)
- Beta particles (high energy electrons or positrons)
It’s chemically unstable and a radiological hazard.
Radium emits radon gas, (a powerful carcinogen).
Even when not glowing it’s still radioactive, it takes thousands of years to decay.
Smoke Detectors are designed to save you right?
What can kids make now in their backyard with even more powerful materials we are manufacturing today?