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CP-1 Anniversary

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Chicago Pile 1 (CP-1) 70th Anniversary

December 2, 1942 - December 2, 2012

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the world's first self-sustaining,
controlled nuclear chain reaction

  • Legacy
    70 years ago an experiment in a converted squash court at the University of Chicago's abandoned Stagg Field wrote nuclear science history

  • CP-1 Pioneers
    49 scientists, led by Enrico Fermi, were present on Dec. 2, 1942, when Chicago Pile 1, the world's first nuclear reactor went critical.
    Who was there?

  • Harold Agnew
    Listen to CP-1 Pioneer Harold Agnew telling how that remarkable day went.
    Watch video…

  • ...and Warren Nyer
    CP-1 Pioneer Warren Nyer recalls a silent celebration after the successful experiment.
    Hear why…

  • The Dawn of the Nuclear Age
    A Director’s Special Symposium was held as one of the events to commemorate the 70th anniversary year of CP-1 achieving criticality.
    Watch video

On December 2, 1942, 49 scientists, 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.

Questions about nuclear energy

Did you know?

The knowledge gained from CP-1, combined with data and analysis from many Argonne physics experiments conducted in the 1940's and early 1950's, informed the development of early naval and commercial nuclear power reactors and made it possible, fifteen years to the day after CP-1 first went critical, for the Shippingport Atomic Power Station to go critical on Dec. 2, 1957 and become America's first full-scale commercial atomic electric power plant.

Related Information


  • Almanac: The 1st self-sustained nuclear reaction - from CBS News (Dec. 2, 2012)
    December 2, 1942 was the date on which scientists at the University of Chicago created the first, self-sustaining nuclear reaction…
    A transcript of the video is also available at the CBS website.
  • The Dawn of the Nuclear Age - June 28, 2012 marked a special day at Argonne National Laboratory, when nearly 600 Argonne staff members had the privilege of hearing two of the pioneers in the nuclear energy field discuss the early days of their careers and their roles in Argonne’s nuclear energy legacy. The video of the symposium and a summary are now available…
  • Argonne nuclear pioneers: Chicago Pile 1 on YouTube (by Argonne National Laboratory) On December 2, 1942, 49 scientists, 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. Seventy years later, two of the last surviving CP-1 pioneers, Harold Agnew and Warren Nyer, recall that historic day.
  • CP-1 Flickr Gallery (by Argonne National Laboratory)

Last Modified: Thu, April 28, 2016 7:41 AM


Enrico Fermi and CP-1 ReactorArgonne marks 70th anniversary of first man-made nuclear chain reaction — Argonne News Release (Dec. 2, 2012)

For more information:

For more information, please contact at Argonne.

CP-1 Pioneers

Harold M. Agnew
Samuel K. Allison
Herbert L. Anderson
Wayne Arnold
Hugh M. Barton
Thomas Brill
Robert F. Christy
Arthur H. Compton
Enrico Fermi
Richard J. Fox
Stewart Fox
Carl. C. Gamertsfelder
Alvin C. Graves
Crawford H. Greenewalt
Norman Hilberry
David L. Hill
William H. Hinch
Robert E. Johnson
W.R. Kanne
August C. Knuth
Phillip Grant Koontz
Herbert E. Kubitschek
Harold V. Lichtenberger
George M. Maronde
Anthony J. Matz
George Miller
George D. Monk
Henry P. Newson
Robert G. Nobles
Warren E. Nyer
Wilcox P. Overbeck
J. Howard Parsons
Gerard S. Pawlicki
Theodore Petry
David P. Rudolph
Leon Sayvetz
Leo Seren
Louis Slotin
Frank H. Spedding
William J. Sturm
Leo Szilard
Al Wattenberg
Richard J. Watts
George L. Weil
Eugene P. Wigner
Marvin H. Wilkening
Volney C. (Bill) Wilson
Leona Woods (Marshall Libby)
Walter H. Zinn

More about the CP-1 Pioneers


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