Chicago’s Nuclear History


Protestors gather on the 70th anniversary of the first controlled nuclear reaction near the site where it occurred on the University of Chicago campus on Dec. 2, 2012. Photo by Tyreshia Black.

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program, which is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation.

The abstract sculpture by Henry Moore on the University of Chicago campus looks like a soldier’s helmet or maybe a mushroom cloud or a skull. It was created to mark the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, which was done at the university on Dec. 2, 1942. Exactly 70 years later, on Dec. 2, 2012, many people came out to pay their respects at a conference at the University of Chicago.

But there certainly were not as many people as should have come, given what nuclear reactions have meant for our society. Many people were not even aware of the event or the history behind it. I personally never knew of the historical event until I attended the commemoration at the university. Luckily, I had a chance to meet several activists who gave me insight on what is going on and their concerns about nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

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Uranium: A Hidden Tragedy


Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood:

Elsie Begay didn’t know her floor was killing her, because it was made of uranium waste. Uranium is a dangerous element that is radioactive and naturally occurs in soil in Utah and New Mexico, as we learned at an event at the University of Chicago in October 2010.

Like many Navajo, Begay didn’t know that uranium was in her backyard and that the radioactivity in her home was higher than it is supposed to be because of the uranium.

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