November 13th, 1974, Karen Silkwood, a 28 years old woman was killed near Crescent, Oklahoma in a tragic car accident. Silkwood was a technician at a radioactive plant managed by Ker-McGee Corporation. She was a crucial part that responsible for the overall safety of the plant. In September, she reported to the Atomic Energy Commission that the working condition in the plant was not entirely safe. In fact, a week before the accident, the plant manager had reported that Silkwood was contaminated with radioactivity. On the night of her death, she seemed to be on the way to expose Kerr-McGee’s negligence in keeping the plant’s safety in check to a union representative and The New York Times reporter, with a folder of evidence supporting her accusation. Nevertheless, the folder was reported to be missing from the remaining of the scene, suggesting that someone has stopped her on the way to try to cover the truth she was about to deliver.
The folder was reported to be missing from the remaining of the scene
On November 5th, Silkwood was preparing plutonium pellets to use in the “breeder reactor” nuclear-power plant. At 18:30, an alpha detector attached to her glove box, which was supposed to prevent her from radioactive contamination exploded. The machine said that her right arm is heavily infected by plutonium. Further investigation suggested that the plutonium that covers her arms came from the inside of her gloves but not the pellets. The doctors of the plant had observed her symptom for several days and found a shocking truth: Her urine and feces were found seriously contaminated by plutonium, they also found radioactivity in her apartment which she shared with one of her colleagues, but nobody could explain the origin of the “alpha activity”. In fact, the autopsy after Silkwood’s death suggested that she indeed ingested the plutonium, but it remained a big question how it got there.
One of the equipment that supposed to protect the nuclear plant worker from radioactivity backfired on Silk, it indicates the lack of safety procedure in the plant
After work on November 13th, Silkwood went to the meeting in her car. Shortly after that, the accident occurred and the police were immediate present at the scene on Oklahoma’s State Highway 74. The scene indicates that Silkwood had crashed into the sideway concrete curb. The ambulance arrived but it was too late. The result of the autopsy indicates that she had overdosed on Quaaludes before her death, which probably made her fell asleep while driving. However, the investigation found a drift marks and a dent in the car’s bumper, suggested that there was a car bumped into her car to force her to stop.
Silkwood’s father filed a lawsuit against Kerr-McGee, resulted in the closing of their Crescent plant and ultimately settle the case with $1.3 million.