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This boy scout shocked the neighborhood by building a nuclear reactor in his mother's shed

This boy scout shocked the neighborhood by building a nuclear reactor in his mother's shed

This boy scout made his mom's shed radioactive with his stunt.

Being a boy scout means you get to hone skills like making campfires, learning archery and first aid.

But one troop member, David Charles Hahn, perhaps took earning an 'atomic energy' badge (an accolade now reportedly replaced with or renamed as a nuclear science badge) a bit too literally.

Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo

David, aged 15 when this all happened, used basic kitchen equipment and in his mum's shed in Michigan, got to work creating a nuclear reactor.

He was attempting to build a homemade breeder reactor and was quite far down the line by August 1994.

But at the end of August, having loaded materials into the back of his Pontiac car, neighbors called the police.

They had reportedly thought he was trying to steal tyres, and reported him for that, rather than knowing about the science experiment he had in the car.

Authorities were in for a surprise when they discovered there was no theft going on, but rather, they were dealing with radioactive materials.

David was arrested while the police had to quickly decide how to deal with the radioactive materials he'd been transporting.

Eventually all of the waste from his mother's shed was dumped, and the would-be nuclear reactor disposed of, by burying it at a waste site in the desert.

Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo

Concerns about radiation levels in the neighbourhood where he lived were, as you can imagine, raised due to the materials he'd been working with in the shed.

According to a 1998 article about David, in Harper's Magazine and written by Ken Silverstein, a "Superfund clean-up" took place, which the publication says cost around $60,000.

So, what happened to David after the discovery in the car? Was he sent to prison? Given a massive fine? Banned from buying batteries?

The answer is no.

Charges against him were dropped - on the condition that he didn't return to his mum's house until the shed was cleared.

David became the subject of a book called 'The Radioactive Boy Scout' but later in life, in 2007, found himself on the wrong side of the law again and ended up pleading guilty in a theft case.

Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo

Reports at the time said he had been charged in the theft of 16 smoke detectors, with a news report saying police "said it was a possible effort to experiment with radioactive materials".

And unfortunately, David's story has a sad ending.

He died in 2016 due to an apparent overdose, after having reportedly struggled with mental health, and as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence, contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.

If you're experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They're open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you're not comfortable talking on the phone

Featured Image Credit: Macomb County Jail/Family handout