Today in Texas History – November 13

From the Annals of Plutonium –  In 1974, union activist Karen Silkwood died in an automobile accident. Silkwood was born in Longview and was a laboratory technician at a Kerr-McGee  plutonium plant in Oklahoma. She joined the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union and became the first female member of the union bargaining committee in Kerr-McGee history.  Working to investigate health and safety concerns, she quickly discovered evidence of spills, leaks, and missing plutonium.  As a result of conditions in its plant, Kerr-McGee was sued in connection with worker safety and environmental contamination claims.  Braving strong opposition and threats, Silkwood testified before the Atomic Energy Commission that she had suffered radiation exposure in a series of unexplained incidents.  The automobile accident that claimed her life occurred while she was on the way to a meeting with an AEC official and a New York Times reporter.  Although there was many theories floated regarding her death, nothing in the way of foul play was ever proven.  However, an autopsy confirmed that she had been contaminated by plutonium.  She was portrayed by Meryl Streep in the 1984 movie Silkwood. 


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