Image of the Day: 2 Billion-Year-Old Nuclear Reactor Fossil!
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March 03, 2011

Image of the Day: 2 Billion-Year-Old Nuclear Reactor Fossil!

Oklo15_curtin

The remnants of nuclear reactors nearly two billion years old were found in the 1970s in Gabon, Africa. These reactors are thought to have occurred naturally. No natural reactors exist today, as the relative density of fissile uranium has now decayed below that needed for a sustainable reaction.

The image above is Fossil Reactor 15, located in Oklo, Gabon. Uranium oxide remains are visible as the yellowish rock. Oklo by-products are being used today to probe the stability of the fundamental constants over cosmological time and distance scales and to develop more effective means for disposing of human-manufactured nuclear waste.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/Apod


Comments

This is kind of spooky. Just yesterday, in relation to another story, I was contemplating the possibility of other sapient species having (nearly) emerged earlier in Earth's history, and now this comes up.

I wonder how much trace there actually would be of an Earth civilization billions (or even just hundreds of millions) of years extinct. After all, if humanity were to disappear today, what would be left of our cities 500 million years from now?

That the last natural reactor has quit may not be true; one theory is that the Earth's core is a Georeactor - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georeactor

the Earth's core is a reactor, the Earth's core is solid iron, the Earth is hollow, my head is spinning, the thing is if the earth's core is a reactor, surely molten lava would be radio active?and how would the magnetic core work? its not magnetic? so how do the magnetic poles work? the earth is hollow? so what makes the larva flow out of the planet? why have'nt the oceans flowed into the hollow centre? too much, much too much.

@ sirald66 - I think there was an article on here in just the past week or two telling how the georeactor theory was disproven. (I could be mistaken in that, though.)

See also http://www.ecolo.org/lovelock/lovelock-oklo.htm for a more substantial but still easy to read discussion

You kill me! ::grins insanely::

Wow, Mother Nature is jsut cool like that. WOW

www.Privacy-Net.tk

Hay bob in answer to your question there was a serise on discovery a while ago called life after people. It concluded that if everyone disapeared it would take as little as 25,000 years for all man made objects on the surface to degrade totaly includeing satilites etc and from then on only archealogical digs would be sufficent to find any evidence of our existance.

the only man made object that could last longer is the piramids in egypt due to them been huge and solid stone, unlike most buildings which are hollow.

Explain this: magnets, how do they work?

Josh:

Like charges on magnets repel each other, and different charges attract. Some metal will adopt a temporary opposite charge in the presence of another charge, and become attracted to a magnet.

I think a better question for the two artists at ICP to ask would have been "Magnets, why do they work?"

That one we don't have a good answer for.

How were there nuclear reactors if men weren't around to make them?

You can't explain that.

check out Thorium Remix on Youtube for a crash course in how nuclear reactors could be :)

I thought that there is a natural occurring nuclear reactor in Africa, near the rift valley. Am I incorrect? I read an article about it in NG.

Is this saying that nuclear reactors can appear naturally in nature... ON planets... like in or on the crust ????

Most geologists and paleontologists agree that all (surface) trace of most civilization would disappear within just a few thousand years of human extinction. The cities of New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago would be nothing but flat grassy plains, rolling hills, rocky deserts, wetlands, and general wilderness for as far as the eye can see.

After 10 thousand years of human extinction it would take numerous archaeological digs to uncover any evidence of past human existence. After 100 thousand years fossil discoveries would scarcely hint at what existed today. After a million years it would be very difficult to distinguish those extremely rare fossil finds from what existed today to what existed a million years ago.

If you want insight to your question "Why do magnets work?"

http://www.particleadventure.org/interact.html

Kristopher:"How were there nuclear reactors if men weren't around to make them? You can't explain that."

Try reading the article kido - "These reactors are thought to have occurred naturally. No natural reactors exist today, as the relative density of fissile uranium has now decayed below that needed for a sustainable reaction."

So, mind you i knew this already, but you can infer from this what is required is to put enough fissile in one place and let it's unstable mass do the work. In fact, this is exactly what we do with our man made reactors, all the equipment is there so we can control the rate, harness power from it, and make it safe to stand next to. But the machines don't make the reaction happen, that's a natural property of the material.

Sorry, that was a bit sloppy, it should have read "put enough fissile material in one place, and let it's critical mass do the work."

@sirald66:

"the Earth's core is a reactor," - unsubstantiated and unlikely

"surely molten lava would be radio active?" - there is low level radioactivity everyone, and indeed lava is slightly more radioactive than cooled rock on the surface of the earth. But it does not come from the core of the planet, it's created by friction of plate movement, in the lithosphere, the Mantel. Hence Magma. In fact because of the makeup of most radioactive elements, they're preferentially sequestered in our earth's crust. So the crust tends to be radioactively hot compared to the core.

"the Earth's core is solid iron," - kind of though not pure, but that's the common wisdom. And not solid as in a cold rock. It's probably in a fluid state. It's under great heat and pressure. To quote the great wiki "It is believed to consist of an iron-nickel alloy, and may have a temperature similar to the Sun's surface, approximately 5778 K"

"the Earth is hollow" - No, it's not. Beyond the mantel, it's extremely, EXTREMELY unlikely there are any voids or open spaces inside the Earth. That is a very old idea from before we understood very much, and is pretty laughable today.

"my head is spinning," - Sit down, chill out, read a good, reputable, book about Geophysics. Start here barring that
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geophysics

"These reactors are thought to have occurred naturally"

This must be one of the weirdest sentences I've ever read.

Where's the science here?

2 billion years ago? How exactly do these archaeologists know this was a natural occurrence? Was it the same sort of 'natural occurrence' that created nuke-zones/vitrified deserts in India and the northern Sahara?

Either this is a natural phenomenon in Gabon - in which case, best not to confuse it with 'nuclear reactors' which are of human manufacture - or it's not. Why are the science guys seemingly so ambiguous?

Wierded-out: you've gotta be kidding... have you not seen the DG articles titled "Alien pigs fly though the sky" or "Flying saucers abduct cows"? This is possibly the most reasonable article I've ever seen here, lol.

If the earth's core is not a natural fission reactor, then how does anybody explain geothermal energy? That entire massive core stays molten, despite the horrendous pressure on it, because of it's extreme heat. All that energy can't come from just natural radioactivity. There has to be a fairly large scale reaction taking place.

If this is real, though, and it existed here, it's bound to exist on other, newer planets

A naturally occurring nuclear reactor! A nuclear reactor took man thousands of years of development to get to the point of being able to even consider building. So if people 25000 years from now found a computer, could it possibly be called "naturally occurring". The statement is bizarre to say the least. Maybe man reached this level of technology, was wiped out and had to start again from the "stone age". Maybe this has happened more than once. This explanation makes more sense than a "naturally occurring" device of high level science.

Reading some of these comments brings to mind the old joke:
Show me an open mind, and I'll show you a head wound.

Reading these comments makes me lose the faith in humanity

@Alex
[quote]"If the earth's core is not a natural fission reactor, then how does anybody explain geothermal energy? That entire massive core stays molten, despite the horrendous pressure on it, because of it's extreme heat. All that energy can't come from just natural radioactivity. There has to be a fairly large scale reaction taking place."[/quote]

my head is full of f*ck. It's BECAUSE the 'horrendous pressure' that the core is molten


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