Chicago Pile 1 (CP-1)

Seventy years ago on December 2, 1942, 49 scientists at the University of Chicago, led by Enrico Fermi, made history when Chicago Pile 1 (CP-1) went critical and produced the world’s first self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction.

This first nuclear reactor, called a pile, required almost 50 tons of machined uranium and uranium oxide pellets, along with almost 400 tons of graphite blocks, which were machined on site. The pile itself was assembled in a squash court under Stagg Field, the football field at the University of Chicago. Neutron- absorbing, cadmium- coated control rods were inserted in the pile. By slowly withdrawing the rods, neutron activity within the pile was expected to increase and at some point, Fermi predicted, there would be one neutron produced for each neutron absorbed in either producing fission or by the control rods. Fermi allowed the reaction to continue for the next 27 minutes before inserting the neutron-absorbing control rods, and stopping the nuclear chain reaction.

The achievement of the first sustained nuclear reaction led to the end of World War II, and was the start of a new age in physics and the study of the atom. Humankind could now harness the tremendous potential energy contained in the nucleus of the atom.

Please join Chicago Council on Science and Technology and Argonne National Lab for a lunchtime program to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the world’s first self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction. Invited speakers will discuss nuclear energy from the history of CP-1 to what the future holds.

Alan Schriesheim, PhD., president of Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C²ST) and director emeritus of Argonne National Laboratory, served as director of Argonne from 1983 to 1996. He joined Argonne after a long career with Exxon Corporation, and was the first national laboratory director to be recruited from industry. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the US National Academy of Engineering, and a past chairman of the National Conference on the Advancement of Research. He will discuss the history of nuclear energy.

Mark Peters, PhD., deputy director for programs at Argonne National Laboratory, will discuss the present state of nuclear energy. In addition to managing Argonne’s science and technology portfolio, strategic planning and Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program (LDRD) and technology transfer, Peters is senior advisor to the Department of Energy on nuclear energy technologies and research and development programs, and nuclear waste policy. He is frequently called to provide expert testimony before Congress, and advises on matters of policy formulation.

Robert Rosner, PhD., director of the Energy Policy Institute Chicago at the University of Chicago, is a theoretical physicist. He is the William Wrather Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, as well as in the Enrico Fermi Institiute and the Harris School of Public Policy Studies. He served previously as Argonne National Laboratory’s chief scientist as well as lab director. He will discuss the future of nuclear energy.

WHERE: Hughes Auditorium at Northwestern University Chicago Campus, 303 East Superior

WHEN: Friday, January 25, 2013 Lunch and registration – 12 noon. Chat with nuclear researchers from Argonne National Laboratory during lunch. Box Lunch is $20. Presentation — 1:00pm. Free & open to the public. Please register for both the program and for the box lunch at

PARKING: Discounted parking will be made available at the 222 E. Huron St. garage.

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