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Naturally occurring nuclear fission
Friday, July 11, 2008

It was a big deal when Rutherford was able to split the atom in the early 19th century. The splitting of the atom meant that one element can be transformed into other elements. What's more, the amount of energy released is quite large (after all, E = mc2).

This phenomena was a man made transformation. However, there is natural occurring fission. It's not very common, but it happens:
    A natural nuclear fission reactor is a uranium deposit where analysis of isotope ratios has shown that self-sustaining nuclear chain reactions have occurred. The existence of this phenomenon was discovered in 1972 by French physicist Francis Perrin. The conditions under which a natural nuclear reactor could exist were predicted in 1956 by P. Kuroda. The conditions found at Oklo were very similar to what were predicted.

    At the only known location, three ore deposits at Oklo in Gabon, sixteen sites have been discovered so far at which self-sustaining nuclear fission reactions took place approximately 1.5 billion years ago, and ran for a few hundred thousand years, averaging 100 kW of power output during that time.

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