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Boy scout, 17, made his entire neighbourhood radioactive after building nuclear reactor in his mum's garden

Shola Lee

Published 
| Last updated 

Boy scout, 17, made his entire neighbourhood radioactive after building nuclear reactor in his mum's garden

Featured Image Credit: Macomb County Jail/Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo

Meet the boy scout that built a nuclear reactor in his mum's garden.

If you thought boy scouts just went to the woods and made campfires you'd, well, you'd be correct.

However, the wholesome troop had one member, David Charles Hahn, that took earning his 'atomic energy' badge a little too seriously.

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David built a nuclear reactor. Credit: Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo
David built a nuclear reactor. Credit: Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo

Look, it's easy to get caught up in the process of earning badges but we'd argue you've taken things too far when you start scrapping radioactive paint from vintage alarm clocks and taking the lithium out of batteries.

Using basic kitchen equipment and his mum's shed in Michigan, David, then 15, got to work on creating a nuclear reactor and he successfully completed his project in August 1994.

However, on 31 August, David's dreams were dashed when he loaded his nuclear reactor into his Pontiac car, only for his neighbours to call the police.

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If you're wondering how the neighbours found out about David's science project, they didn't.

He was part of the boy scouts when he created the reactor. Credit: Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo
He was part of the boy scouts when he created the reactor. Credit: Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo

They thought the lad was stealing tyres but when police came to investigate they found something far worse.

David was arrested as the authorities worked out how to deal with the radioactive materials.

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They dumped all of the waste from David mothers' shed and disposed of his nuclear reactor by burying it at a waste disposal site in the desert.

Still, the damage had already been done, because radiation levels in David's area had already begun to rise.

So, what happened to David? Was he sent to prison? Given a massive fine? Banned from buying batteries?

No, in fact, the charges against him were dropped, on the condition that he didn't return to his mum's house until the shed was cleared.

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He was 15 at the time of building. Credit:  Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo
He was 15 at the time of building. Credit: Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo

And David's dad was pretty impressed that he'd managed to create the reactor, saying: "I'm very proud of Dave it's not many fifteen-year-old kids that can put something together like this in my wildest dreams I don't think I could have done it."

Unfortunately David's life was hit with more trouble in adulthood.

He was arrested for stealing smoke alarms, supposedly to get more materials for a reactor, and during his time in prison saw a psychiatrist.

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He was said to have struggled with mental health issues, as well as drug and alcohol abuse, and died in 2016 due to an apparent overdose.

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 


Topics: Technology, News, US News, Science, Life

Shola Lee
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