In 1972, workers in the Oklo mine in Gabon (then a French colony) stumbled upon something perplexing: while analyzing the uranium in the mines, they discovered that uranium-235 isotopes (what is needed to sustain a nuclear chain reaction, for nuclear power or bombs) were, for the lack of a better word, "missing." With additional research, scientist found that the uranium on the ground sustained what seemed to be a natural chain reaction on its own , a similar process found in a nuclear reactor. Scientists concluded that billions of years ago, the uranium-235 on the ground spontaneously started a reaction -- the first and only of its kind to happen as part of a natural process, making it the only "ancient" nuclear reactor on Earth. This weird instance in nuclear history is more than a fun fact; scientist turn to the Oklo incident to better understand how underground nuclear waste disposal could be done without environmental harm. An ancient underground nuclear reaction was able to do it -- why can't we?
An image of one of the Oklo sites that experienced this phenomena of natural nuclear fission. I've been thinking about nuclear waste disposal recently, and as a concerned citizen, hope that we are able to come up with a way to do this without disturbing communities and the land. How can we be responsible custodians of the atom and of the Earth? Hoping that Oklo can shed some answers.
#science #rocks #geology #nuclear #chemistry #reaction #funfact #oklo