Synopses & Reviews
Growing up in suburban Detroit, David Hahn was fascinated by science. While he was working on his Atomic Energy badge for the Boy Scouts, David's obsessive attention turned to nuclear energy. Throwing caution to the wind, he plunged into a new project: building a model nuclear reactor in his backyard garden shed.
Posing as a physics professor, David solicited information on reactor design from the U.S. government and from industry experts. Following blueprints he found in an outdated physics textbook, David cobbled together a crude device that threw off toxic levels of radiation. His wholly unsupervised project finally sparked an environmental emergency that put his town's forty thousand suburbanites at risk. The EPA ended up burying his lab at a radioactive dumpsite in Utah. This offbeat account of ambition and, ultimately, hubris has the narrative energy of a first-rate thriller.
"Aghast at Hahn's recklessness but amazed by his mad-scientist resourcefulness, Silverstein regales readers with an irresistible tale." Booklist
"Anyone who has ever wondered what the neighborhood geek might be brewing up in his backyard should read The Radioactive Boy Scout. This is a riveting and disturbing story about the power of the teenage mind and the sparks that fly when a nuclear family melts down." David Kushner, author of Masters of Doom
"Silverstein...fleshes out David Hahn's atomic escapades, and though it takes a while for the story to kick into gear, readers will be sucked in not just by how Hahn did it but how he was able to get away with it." Publishers Weekly
"A preposterous story kept in check by a restrained (if incredulous) voice and by situating it within the folderol of the Cold War nuclear fraternity." Kirkus Reviews
"These days, the phrase 'nuclear ambitions' is applied ominously to countries or heads of state. Yet it aptly describes an ordinary teenager in suburban Detroit named David Hahn. His experience is a frightening indication of how easily dangerous materials can be acquired and hidden....The personal tragedy here sounds as disturbing as the potential public disaster." Tim Rauschenberger, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire Christian Science Monitor review
About the Author
Ken Silverstein is an investigative reporter for the Washington, D.C., bureau of the Los Angeles Times. A former contributing editor to Harper's magazine, in which a portion of this story first appeared, he has written for Mother Jones, The Nation, and The American Prospect, among others. He lives in Washington, D.C.