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 thoughts on “Those Boy Scouts…Always Building Nuclear Reactors

  1. 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.

  2. 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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