Home Page Science Frontiers
ONLINE

No. 121: Jan-Feb 1999

Issue Contents





Other pages


Other Interesting Sites


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

 

Oklo: An Unappreciated Cosmic Phenomenon

In 1972, French scientists discovered that several natural concentrations of uranium ore had become critical and flared up some 2 billion years ago at Oklo, Gabon. The concentration and configuration of the natural uranium and surrounding materials at that time had been just right to sustain fission. In fact, the analysis of the nuclear waste in the burned rocks demonstrated that plutonium had also been created. This implies that natural breeder reactors are also possible, raising the possibility of hitherto unappreciated, long-lived heat sources deep in the earth, in the other planets, and inside some of the stars.

Don't worry that the Oklo phenomenon might occur today on the earth's surface. The concentration of fissionable U-235 has fallen considerably in the last 2 billion years due to its radioactive decay. But, deep inside the earth and other astronomical bodies, nuclear criticality might still be possible due to different pressures, densities, etc.

In a stimulating and generally overlooked paper in Eos, J.M. Herndon proffers four important natural phenomena that may involve natural fission reactors.

(Herndon, J. Marvin; "Examining the Overlooked Implications of Natural Nuclear Reactors," Eos, 79:451, 1998.)

Comments. Two additions to Herndon's list.

Natural nuclear reactors in Oklo Disposition of six of the Oklo 2-billion-year-old natural nuclear reactors. (From: Anomalies in Geology).

From Science Frontiers #121, JAN-FEB 1999. 1999-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:

Quotes

  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987