Author Topic: Earths Natural Atomic Reactor  (Read 649 times)

Online Solar

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Earths Natural Atomic Reactor
« on: September 18, 2017, 06:56:03 AM »
I think we need a new category called "Did You Know"? A thread dedicated to stuff, anything most people never heard about.
This is one of those scenarios, though out of school at the time, I vaguely remember hearing about this and they released little on the subject at the time, but now, more than 40 years later, I find the rest of the story.

Remember the leftist bull shit China Syndrome lie? Well here it is in truth, and Earth did it all herself, far more powerful than anything man could create, or rather, would create.

The Sun, of course, is actually a giant nuclear fusion reactor.  It does the same thing any nuclear power reactor on Earth does, except it doesn’t split the atoms, it fuses two or more smaller atoms together by way of gravitational pressure (which is the difference between fission and fusion).  But the Sun, and its many billions and billions of star cousins, aren’t the only places these reactions happen spontaneously.

They’ve happened here on Earth too, a very, very long time ago.

The continent of Africa still holds some secrets, and one of them resides at Oklo in the Central African state of Gabon.  Oklo was at one time Europe’s richest source of energy grade uranium.  France operated several mines in the region for decades, until eventually the supply was exhausted.  The uranium mined at Oklo has been used in nearly every nuclear reactor in Europe, but in 1972 it was discovered that there was something odd about some of the samples.

French physicist Francis Perrin found that comparisons of uranium-235 from several sites brought up clear discrepancies.  Uranium ore, like any ore, is found in different places all over the world, and the ore from each location has subtle differences that can be used to trace the origin of the enriched ore later in production.  Normally, Oklo’s ore had a uranium-235 content of 0.7202%, but some samples were found to contain a concentration of only 0.600%, which is a considerable difference.  It was almost as though the uranium had already been inside a reactor…it was depleted as though it was already used.

Upon further study it was found, quite remarkably, that the uranium deposits at Oklo, in some sixteen different locations, had undergone spontaneous fission inside a naturally occurring reactor approximately 1.7 billion years ago.  Special conditions were indeed needed for this to occur.  It turns out that the ratio of 235U to 238U just happened to be nearly the same as is used in today’s nuclear power reactors, and all that was needed was for the introduction of ground water to act as a neutron moderator and voila![1]  You’ve got yourself a spontaneous fission reactor.

Despite the fact that the Oklo reactors are the only ones that have ever existed on Earth, we actually know a great deal about when it occurred and for how long.  It’s been determined, by studying the decay products of the reaction – such as the amount of xenon in the surrounding material – that each reactor was active on a continuous cycle of thirty minutes of criticality followed by two hours and thirty minutes of cool down.  And this went on for several hundred thousand years.

Interestingly, some believe that a spontaneous fission reaction such as those at Oklo, which may have taken the form of a detonation rather than a reactor, may have been the explosion event that created Earth’s moon.  While not a widely accepted hypothesis, the idea does have some evidentiary support, though so does its competition, the giant impact hypothesis.

It’s also thought that Mars, which is thought to have an abundance of radioactive uranium, thorium, and potassium, might have experienced these types of localised spontaneous fission reactors as well, in the very distant past.  Which may offer future Mars explorers a source of energy on the red planet, if we ever do get there.


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