Womens History: Karen Silkwood

Karen Gay Silkwood (February 19, 1946 – November 13, 1974) was an American labor union activist and chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee plant near Crescent, Oklahoma in the United States. Silkwood's job was making plutonium pellets for nuclear reactor fuel rods. She died under mysterious circumstances after investigating claims of irregularities and wrongdoing at the Kerr-McGee plant.

Public suspicions surrounding her death led to a federal investigation into plant security and safety, and a National Public Radio report concerning 44 to 66 pounds of misplaced plutonium. Silkwood's story emphasized the hazards of nuclear energy and raised questions about corporate accountability and responsibility. Kerr-McGee closed its nuclear fuel plants in 1975. The grounds of the Cimarron plant were still being decontaminated 25 years later.


Further Reading:

Karen Silkwood Remembered
PBS Frontlin: The Karen Silkwood Story
The Karen Silkwood Story: A True Measure of Exposure (pdf)