Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Those Boy Scouts…Always Building Nuclear Reactors


Now 17, David hit on the idea of building a model breeder reactor, a
nuclear reactor that not only generates electricity, but also produces new
fuel. His model would use the actual radioactive elements and produce real
reactions. His blueprint was a schematic in one of his father’s textbooks.

Ignoring safety, David mixed his radium and americium with beryllium and
aluminum, all of which he wrapped in aluminum foil, forming a makeshift
reactor core. He surrounded this radioactive ball with a blanket of small
foil-wrapped cubes of thorium ash and uranium powder, tenuously held
together with duct tape.

From “TALE OF THE RADIOACTIVE BOY SCOUT,” found via a comment by Tom Holsinger on the Radiation Surveillance thread on Volokh Conspiracy. It turns out that the article has been turned into a book (The Radioactive Boy Scout). Picture from this site.

2 comments on "Those Boy Scouts…Always Building Nuclear Reactors"

  • Chris Walsh says:

    Meanwhile, for anyone who thinks that the University of Chicago is “where fun goes to die”, consider this guy, who among other notable accomplishments, built a breeder reactor as part of the UofC scavenger hunt.

  • Anonymous says:

    This assembly is being described as a reactor – but that sounds wrong to me. It won’t be a reactor unless it can get a self-sustaining chain reaction and that won’t happen without at least one of: a) enriched uranium b) heavy water c) tons of fuel.

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