David Hahn in the mid-nineties was a teenage boy scout working towards his merit badges. One badge in particular, the Atomic Energy Merit Badge, caught his imagination when it required him ... See full summary »

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David Hahn in the mid-nineties was a teenage boy scout working towards his merit badges. One badge in particular, the Atomic Energy Merit Badge, caught his imagination when it required him to make a model of a nuclear reactor out of cotton buds etc. David went further and sought out household sources of the materials he would need to make his reactor. Here he talks us through what he did and the surprising results he got. Written by bob the moo

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19 July 2003 (UK)  »

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Enjoyable due to the easy presentation by Hann himself
1 September 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

David Hahn in the mid nineties was a boy scout working towards his merit badges. One badge in particular, the Atomic Energy Merit Badge, caught his imagination when it required him to make a model of a nuclear reactor out of cotton buds etc. David went further and sought out household sources of the materials he would need to make his reactor. Here he talks us through what he did and the surprising results he got.

Say what you want about channel 4, but they are responsible for giving small stories and films a chance to come through. This short was shown as part of a series of different stories and was easily the most easy going and enjoyable. It was a strange sensation to be relaxed for most of the film given the subject matter, but it was presented in that way. Most of this is due to David Hahn himself (now in mid-20's I'd guess) who basically talks to camera for the majority of the film (interviewer off screen). He talks with such an innocence (naivety?) about the subject that he easily won me over with charm. I imagine he is probably a worrying person to know, but nonetheless he presents what he did in an easy going, understandable fashion.

What he actually did was essentially make a nuclear reactor in his back yard shed to the point that the EPA (when they found out) dismantled the whole thing and took it away to be disposed of as nuclear waste. Even on his visit to his old house he stills finds significant radiation levels from the ground! The film tells us that a group of American students repeated David's home-made efforts as part of their degree and managed to produce plutonium!

In these days of terrorism and dirt bombs, I think I was meant to be more alarmed by the ease with which David got radioactive materials (from substances in the supermarket, from old fashioned clocks etc) but I was more amazed at this teenager having the guile to get it and make it all work! It IS a worry, but the wonder of it was a greater emotion for me while watching.

Overall this is a very enjoyable story that is simply enthralling due to the fat that it is true. The relaxed presentation is much more fun than if it had been given a fear/doom & gloom spin, while the potential and the dangers is not ignored. The film's greatest strength is that Hahn is a really nice guy who's discussions are down to earth and matter to fact. He is a little worrying (especially in his suggested cavalier attitude towards radiation) but he is very watchable.


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