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Migration and retention of elements at the Oklo natural reactor


The Oklo natural reactor, Gabon, permits study of fission-produced elemental behavior in a natural geologic environment. The uranium ore that sustained fission reactions formed about 2 billion years before present (BYBP), and the reactor was operative for about 5 × 105 yrs between about 1.95 to 2 BYBP. The many tons of fission products can, for the most part, be studied for their abundance and distribution today. Since reactor shutdown, many fissiogenic elements have not migrated from host pitchblende, and several others have migrated only a few tens of meters from the reactor ore. Only Xe and Kr have apparently been largely removed from the reactor zones. An element by element assessment of the Oklo rocks' ability to retain the fission products, and actinides and radiogenic Pb and Bi as well, leads to the conclusion that no widespread migration of the elements occurred. This suggests that rocks with more favorable geologic characteristics are indeed well suited for consideration for the storage of radioactive waste.

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Brookins, D.G. Migration and retention of elements at the Oklo natural reactor. Geo 4, 201–208 (1982).

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  • Migration
  • Uranium
  • Reactor Zone
  • Radioactive Waste
  • Fission Product