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Silkwood vs. Kerr-McGee

Twenty-seven years ago, US anti-nuclear activist, Karen Silkwood, was fighting in an uphill battle against Kerr-McGee Metallography Laboratory. Sadly after months of preparation and hard work for the case, Karen was killed in a fatal car crash. She

didn’t even have the chance to tell her story to the many people who wanted to know.

It all started in 1972 when she began work for Kerr-McGee. Working for Kerr-McGee was not a clean job. While working there, she noticed many health violations: workers were being exposed to contamination, bad respiratory equipment, people were storing plutonium samples in their drawers and people were allowing plutonium samples to be taken to schools for show and tell. The company allowed two showers per employee per shift, but since their were so many, many left without a shower. Since they were exposed to contamination, they were taking that contamination home to their families.

After just a few months of being employed, Karen was elected as the first female committee member of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union at Kerr McGee. Having this new power gave her the authority to dig up evidence of poor health and safety regulations. Silkwood was warned that it was dangerous to go up against the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). They were the ones that had power over the ownership of the plant. While collecting evidence, her phone was bugged, her movements were monitored, and she was deliberately contaminated with plutonium. The contamination was so severe that, after her death, her belongings had to be sealed up so no one could touch them.

After months of gathering information, Silkwood decided to make her public debut with the evidence. She had contacted the New York Times and they were waiting to print the story. On November 17, 1974, she attended a union meeting in Crescent, OK. After the meeting, she had about a forty minute drive to Oklahoma City to meet Steve Wodka from the New York Times. Sadly, on her way to the meeting, her car ran off the left side of the road and ran along side a ditch and then flew twenty-four feet before hitting the concrete divider.

Now, whether she was murdered or not is undecided. I think she was run off the road by an employee at the plant or someone who didn’t want her to make the story public. I think that if she would have gotten to the meeting, she would have won the case because she would have made it public.