Abstract

Of the sixteen known Oklo and the Bangombé natural fission reactors (hydro-thermally altered clastic sedimentary rocks that contain abundant uraninite and authigenic clay minerals), reactors 1 to 6 at Oklo contain only traces of organic matter, but the others are rich in organic substances. Reactors 7 to 9 are the subjects of this study. These organic-rich reactors may serve as time- tested analogues for anthropogenic nuclear-waste containment strategies. Organic matter helped to concentrate quantities of uranium sufficient to initiate the nuclear chain reactions. Liquid bitumen was generated from organic matter by hydrothermal reactions during nuclear criticality. The bitumen soon became a solid, consisting of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and an intimate mixture of cryptocrystalline graphite, which enclosed and immobilized uraninite and the fission-generated isotopes entrapped in uraninite. This mechanism prevented major loss of uranium and fission products from the natural nuclear reactors for 1.2 b.y.

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