Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee
Commercial Nuclear Energy
In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower helped usher in the age of commercial nuclear energy when he called for the use of "Atoms for Peace" in a speech before the United Nations. Just eight years before, "atoms for war" had been used in a dramatic way when the United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus ending World War II.
In 1957, the first commercial nuclear plant was opened at Shippingport, Pennsylvania, and over the course of the next 35 years, some 109 plants were opened in the United States. The latter number, however, represented a significant shortfall compared to the projections of nuclear-power proponents in the early 1970s, who believed that the country would have 500 nuclear plants by the year 2000. One of the chief reasons for this shortfall was the increase in public fears concerning nuclear power following an accident in a nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979. Concerned by the growth of nuclear waste, the disposal of which is extremely problematic, Congress in 1982 passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.