Nuclear Energy ~ a sculpture by Artist Henry Moore
On December 2, 1942 I was thirty-seven days short of my fifth birthday. A happy child one would presume, playing joyfully in the backyard of my California home. On that day as I played without a care or woe, a few thousand miles away on the University of Chicago campus Enrico Fermi created the first nuclear chain reaction, in the world’s first atomic reactor, and generated the world’s first high-level radioactive reactor waste – the clock showed it was 3:25 PM local time, early afternoon in California.
Events moved swiftly since that day in 1942. Less than three years later the atomic bomb test “Trinity” would occur in New Mexico followed shortly by the United States bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. And still I played at my childish games, perhaps mothering my baby doll as I dressed and fed her and took her for rides in her little baby carriage.
But I was the lucky child, I wasn’t aware of these events really and I wasn’t a child playing in a backyard in a home located in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. I was lucky also because I live five years of my life in an environment not inhabited with nuclear waste.
Now seventy years later in Chicago, 200 participants mark the tragic observance of “A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High” during a two-day event. And I, seventy years later, live only a few hundred miles from Chicago and I no longer play in my backyard without care or woe. Now I spend a portion of each of my days trying to learn more about this ‘pile’ of nuclear waste, this pile that is 70 years high.; to learn more and to pass on to others that they may learn as well.
Together if we are successful we will leave a future of clean backyards for generations yet to come, backyards where children can play their childish games safe and secure.
About the sculpture:
"Nuclear Energy", a 12-foot tall bronze sculpture by the British abstract artist Henry Moore (1898-1986), was unveiled at 3:36 p.m. on December 2, 1967, precisely a quarter-century after scientists at the University of Chicago achieved the first controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, thereby initiating the atomic age. The sculpture stands on the site of the University's old Stagg Field, where the experiment took place under the leadership of Enrico Fermi.
To some, it suggests the shape of the human skull or the atomic mushroom cloud. Henry Moore told a friend, however, that he hoped those viewing it would "go around it, looking out through the open spaces, and that they may have a feeling of being in a cathedral."