The Radioactive Boy Scout

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Growing up in suburban Detroit, David Hahn was fascinated by science, and his basement experiments building homemade fireworks, brewing moonshine, and concocting his own self-tanning lotion were more ambitious than those of other boys. While 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 nuclear breeder reactor in his backyard garden shed.

In The Radioactive Boy Scout, veteran journalist Ken Silverstein recreates the months of David's nuclear quest. Posing as a physics professor, David solicited information on reactor design from the U.S. government and from industry experts. (Ironically, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was his number one source of information.) Scavenging antiques stores and junkyards for old-fashioned smoke detectors and gas lanterns (both of which contain small amounts of radioactive material) and following blueprints he found in an outdated physics textbook, David cobbled together a crude device. His unsanctioned and wholly unsupervised project finally sparked an environmental catastrophe that caused the EPA to shut down his lab and bury it at a radioactive dumpsite in Utah.

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