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The death of Karen Silkwood

text-from-the-archivesSilkwood,KKaren Gay Silkwood (February 19, 1946 – November 13, 1974) was an American chemical technician and labor union activist known for raising concerns about corporate practices related to health and safety of workers in a nuclear facility. Following her mysterious death, which received extensive coverage, her estate filed a lawsuit against chemical company Kerr-McGee, which was eventually settled for $1.38 million. Silkwood was portrayed by Meryl Streep in Mike Nichols‘ 1983 Academy Award-nominated film Silkwood.

She worked at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site plant near Crescent, Oklahoma, United States. Silkwood’s job was making plutonium pellets for nuclear reactor fuel rods. This plant experienced theft of plutonium by workers during this era. She joined the union and became an activist on behalf of issues of health and safety at the plant as a member of the union’s negotiating team, the first woman to have that position at Kerr-McGee. In the summer of 1974, she testified to the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns.

For three days in November, she was found to have plutonium contamination on her person and in her home. That month, while driving to meet with David Burnham, a New York Times journalist, and Steve Wodka, an official of her union’s national office, she died in a car crash under unclear circumstances.

Her family sued Kerr-McGee on behalf of her estate. In what was the longest trial up until then in Oklahoma history, the jury found Kerr-McGee liable for the plutonium contamination of Silkwood, and awarded substantial damages. These were reduced on appeal, but the case reached the United States Supreme Court in 1979, which upheld the damages verdict. Before another trial took place, Kerr-McGee settled with the estate out of court for US $1.38 million, while not admitting liability. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Silkwood

Questions Still Remain In Suspicious Death Of Karen Silkwood

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December 17, 2016 - Posted by | civil liberties, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA

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