CHICAGO — At 3:25 p.m. on Dec. 2, 1942, physicist Enrico Fermi oversaw the first controlled self-sustaining atomic chain reaction on a squash court below the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field.
Exactly 70 years later, on an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon, activists, engineers, doctors and scientists from across the U.S., Canada, Germany and Japan gathered around Henry Moore’s abstract “Nuclear Energy” sculpture on the University of Chicago campus.
Oglala Sioux tribal member Charmaine White Face sang and prayed about the harm nuclear power and nuclear weapons have wrought on Native Americans. Local Buddhists chanted and drummed as people placed sticks of incense around the sculpture, an abstract form which could evoke a skull or a mushroom cloud.
It has been more than two decades since the era when Americans regularly chained themselves to nuclear reactors, went to jail and marched by the tens of thousands to oppose nuclear power. With the Cold War long over, nuclear weapons are largely decoupled from nuclear energy in the American consciousness, and with climate change posing a dire global security threat, nuclear power is seen as a relatively clean, viable energy source by many today — including President Barack Obama.
But the gathering at the University of Chicago showed that there is still a vibrant if scaled down anti-nuclear movement, including activists – disproportionately with graying hair — industry whistleblowers and clean energy experts who say nuclear simply doesn’t fit in with an energy future based on renewables and more distributed generation.
Read more at 70 years after first atomic reaction, anti-nuclear movement presses on