Talk:Natural nuclear fission reactor

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Physics (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Physics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Physics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.

Merged talk[edit]

Moved from Oklo during merge

"since there is no physical reason why it should be exactly constant" is not well phrased. It is expected that the fine-structure constant is, exactly that - constant. Controversy arises from the fact that certain measurements described in the fine-structure constant article indicate it may have shifted over time. I have changed it to ", as new evidence suggests is possible". --JoeMeyerowitz 1/2/06

This is misleading for two reasons. First there is a long tradition of theoretical physics speculation about models where the so-called "fine structure constant", and/or other parameters, actually change very slowly with time. Theoretical models date back to Dirac in the 1930's. The original statement that there is no reason why it must be exactly constant is quite correct: these are parameters which a priori are continuously variable. Second, what has happened recently is the appearance of claimed signals of nonzero variation in astrophysical spectra, which is an experimental result. The new evidence does not "suggest that change is possible" since that was known all along; it suggests that change may actually have occurred. --Tdent 12:00, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

"A key to the creation was that at the time, the abundance of fissionable U-235 was about 3%, which is comparable to the amount used in today's reactors. Due to U-235's shorter half life than U-238, the current abundance of U-235 in natural uranium is about 0.7%. Therefore a natural nuclear reactor is no longer possible on Earth."

3% of what? I assume the 3% in the first sentence means 3% of natural uranium, as in the second sentence. This is ambiguous. --Jsnow 03:20, 22 August 2005 (UTC)

What about James Lovelock's claims that the Uranium was concentrated by bacteria? See his book The Ages of Gaia (1988).

I removed the "nuclear skullduggery" or whatever it was. If anyone knowledgeable can replace it with something comprehensible, it would be greatly appreciated.

I believe that the definition is wrong. A natural nuclear fission rector is a exactly that. Such a thing could occur at any time or place. The definiton limits it to the past. That is logically wrong. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:52, 4 December 2010 (UTC)


Are there any other sites than Oklo? thx.

So far no other sites have been found --21:26, 28 March 2006 (UTC)
Then why not replace 'best known location' with 'only known location?' 'best known' implies that there are other, more obscure ones. 16:25, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
Pending any clarification from an expert, I'll make that edit myself. 14:50, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

From:jjf I have another reference: Scientific American, July 1976 p.36 George A Cowan A Natural Fission Reactor —Preceding unsigned comment added by Foxjj (talkcontribs) 13:04, 11 October 2007 (UTC)


At one point the article states that the reactions occurred 1.5 billion years ago, while at another point it says the reactions took place over 2 billion years ago. Can someone clarify and/or correct this? How long did the reactors operate? Paul D. Anderson 06:28, 1 September 2006 (UTC)


This is incredible. 02:53, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

Well put! I look forward to this article growing over time, as it is a darn neat topic. Dxco (talk) 22:44, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

I believe I read somewhere, years ago, that mutations due to natural fission were considered a contributory factor to evolution. Is there any truth in that ... any citations? Delverie (talk) 17:00, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

There is a recent article in GSA oday suggesting that isolated oxygen producing photosyntheses-driven biological communities in the mostly reducing environment of the Archean contributed to the formation of natural nuclear reactors. However, as a negative feedback, this reactors may prevented the spread of oxidising life forms. See article: Did natural reactors form as a consequence of the emergence of oxygenic photosynthesis during the Archean?Geomartin (talk) 06:28, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
IIRC Isaac Asimov's Foundation series speculated that there was a relationship. I think it was in Edge of Foundation or Foundation and Earth, from the 1980s. Given he was a biochemist, and almost got assigned to the Manhattan Project during WWII, it's not too wild to suppose this idea was kicked around among colleagues and friends. He died in 1992. (talk) 21:45, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

I would love to see the original sources for the initial reactions once the 235U discrepancy was noticed! It would let us write such a cool article with a dramatic history section! (^_^) Double sharp (talk) 04:09, 22 June 2016 (UTC)


As the most stable nucleus, Iron very well may serve in critical background processes in both stellar and terrestrial nuclear formations. (talk) 09:25, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Impossibilty of natural reactors under current conditions[edit]

I undid the change regarding the possibility of natural reactors by ID . It is true that Magnox and CANDU reactors use natural uranium instead of enriched uranium, however the conditions in these reactors are so special that they are not compareable to nature. For instance, CANDU reactors use heavy water as moderator, which does not occur in nature in concentrated form. Therefore the statement in the article remains true that natural fission reactors are not possible anymore on earth.Geomartin (talk) 04:51, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Mechanism of the reactors[edit]

This part sounded very suspicious:

After cooling of the mineral deposit, short-lived fission product poisons decayed

So I checked out the citation ([1]) and found that it wasn't in there. In fact, this is what the paper says:

"Interestingly enough, the 30 min pulses of natural
nuclear reactor activity and 2:5 h dormant periods re-
corded in the Oklo Al phosphate resemble a typical geyser
operation. Similar time scales suggest similar processes.
This similarity suggests that 0.5 h after the onset of the
chain reaction, unbounded water was converted to steam,
decreasing the thermal neutron flux and making the
reactor subcritical. It took at least 2.5 h for the reactor
to cool down until fission Xe began to retain. Then the
water returned to the reactor zone, providing neutron
moderation and once again establishing a self-sustaining

My guess? Some editor added "poisons" to describe the (biologically nasty) short-lived fission products for some reason, and another interpreted that as neutron poisons. So unless someone sources that statement, I'm removing it. Kolbasz (talk) 13:35, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

Done. Kolbasz (talk) 12:23, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

would be nice[edit]

The diagram is nice; a map would be nice too. I don't read coordinates very well. (talk) 21:36, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Is 'reactor' correct terminology?[edit]

I admit I don't know much about school-level physics (& nothing at all about geology) beyond what any vaguely scientifically interested person might pick up in adulthood, but is it correct to describe it as a reactor anyway? Is it only a reactor if it's actually *doing* something with the reaction - such as generating electricity - rather than simply existing? Would a more accurate title be 'natural nuclear fission phenomenon' or something? Note that I'm asking to seek knowledge, rather than asking as a rhetorical device to make a point! Star-one (talk) 16:12, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

A nuclear reactor doesn't have to do anything, power-wise. For example, the Hanford production-reactors in the Manhattan project just sat there and generated heat (had to be cooled with water) but generated no electricity. Their job was to fission U-235 and make Pu-239 out of U-238 with the neutrons produced. The better question is whether the word "reactor" itself demands an artifact-- something made by humans. Most people writing about this have tended to take the view that if you qualify the word by writing "natural reactor" it's okay. Or rather is a permitted conceit, like writing of certain stalactites as natural chandeliers, and so on. SBHarris 17:21, 13 April 2012 (UTC)


Quote: "Oklo is the only known location for this in the world". I thought Morro do Ferro? (thorium deposit), Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais, Brasil had a natural nuclear fission reactor as well.
I hope it's the right reference: Natural analogues for the transuranic actinide elements: An investigation in Minas Gerais, Brazil (1984), Environmental Geology and Water Sciences, Springer, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 1-9.
Proc. Technical Committee Meeting on Natural Fission Reactors (1978), IAEA Tech. Rep., STI/PUB/475, IAEA, Vienna, Austria.
or Gancarz, A. J. (1977). Technical Committee Meeting on Natural Fission Reactors, December 19-21, 1977 Paris, France.
W. Miller, R. Alexander, N. Chapman, John C McKinley, J.A.T. Smellie (2000) Geological Disposal of Radioactive Wastes and Natural Analogues, Elsevier, pp. 328
Chapman, N.A., McKinley, I.G. Shea, M.E. and Smellie, J.A. (1990): The Poços de Caldas Project: Summary and Implications for Radioactive Waste Management, SKB Tech. Rep., TR 84-16, SKB, Stockholm, Sweden.
But I can't confirm that it was a natural fission reactor. Regards --Chris.urs-o (talk) 10:19, 12 January 2013 (UTC) (talk) 14:11, 14 February 2013 (UTC) ksisco The criticality event at Tokaimura operated the same way: by voids being created and briefly stopping the reaction until it cooled sufficiently to restart. And transmutation of elements via accelerated deuterium from cloud top accelerators means accululation is possible.,/cropcircles/isotopes.html

Mars speculation[edit]

I think the part of this article related to Mars is totally bogus and relies on non-peer reviewed speculations from a non-geologist. If you read the linked Space Daily reference, the GRS principal investigator is quoted as saying pretty much the same thing. Suggest that this whole section should be removed. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:55, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

I agree this theory is wild and as it hasn't been published under peer-reviewed skipping the Mars part of the article seems reasonable. --Danapit (talk) 17:23, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
Just removed the edit about "explosive end to Martian natural reactor". I did it without announcing to the author of the contribution, because he/she was not logged in when editing the article. The reason of deleting is that (as mentioned above) it is a speculation. Not sure about removing the whole section, hope to get more contributions to this discussion. --Danapit (talk) 11:06, 8 March 2013 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Natural nuclear fission reactor/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

There is a misstatement in the material cited from the Yucca Mountain project. It is quoted correctly from the source, of course, but the source itself has an erroneous statement suggesting the Oklo and Yucca Mountain geologies are comparable. There are large difference between the two geologies, thus there is no expectation that what contained radionuclides at Oklo is what will retain radionuclides at Yucca Mountain. I will let you know when the corrected Fact Sheet has been reposted. Abevanluik (talk) 22:58, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

Last edited at 22:58, 11 January 2008 (UTC). Substituted at 00:57, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

Reference to the Origin of the moon hypothesis[edit]

Going through the paper of Westrenen et al. cited in that section of main page, it is clear that an Oklo-type natural reactor is not involved in their origin of the moon hypothesis. Discrepancies in timing (moon formation vs Oklo-type reactions) and location (mining depths vs core-mantle boundary) suggested that the referencing might be improper. I suggest that the section be deleted or rather, moved to the Moon page. Nrlsouza (talk) 01:36, 23 November 2016 (UTC)

Oklo: critical or non-critical?[edit]

The "Mechanism of the reactors" section states that Oklo (at least, I think it's referring to Oklo) went critical. However the article on Oklo itselfs implies that it did not go critical, only that it could have done if conditions had been different. So which is right? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:59, 21 December 2016 (UTC)

  1. ^ Meshik, A. P.; et al. (2004). "Record of Cycling Operation of the Natural Nuclear Reactor in the Oklo/Okelobondo Area in Gabon". Physical Review Letters. 93 (18): 182302. Bibcode:2004PhRvL..93r2302M. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.93.182302. PMID 15525157.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)