- Thousands of miles beneath our feet, a giant nuclear
reactor seems to be at work deep within Earth's core, and preliminary research
suggests it may be the mysterious power source behind the planet's magnetic
field and thermal energy, upon which all life on the planet depends for
its survival, scientists told United Press International.
- New data analyzed by J. Marvin Herndon, geoscientist
and president of Transdyne Corporation, of San Diego, Calif., and Daniel
F. Hollenback, a nuclear engineer and criticality expert at Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., show the reactor -- a ball of uranium
about five miles in diameter and located at the center of the core -- may
have been operating nearly since the formation of the planet.
- Herndon told UPI he has been searching for evidence of
the deep-Earth reactor for more than a decade. In 1992, he published a
series of papers on planet-sized nuclear reactors based on the discovery,
20 years earlier, of the remnants of a large, natural reactor located at
the Oklo uranium mine in the Republic of Gabon in western Africa.
- French scientists had discovered the Oklo reactor and
determined it had operated for tens of thousands of years some two billion
years ago, Herndon said, "but at the time of its discovery there were
too many pieces missing to know what that really meant."
- Nuclear reactors operating inside planetary cores might
explain some mysteries that have puzzled scientists for years, Herndon
said. For example, since the 1960s, astronomers have known Jupiter radiates
nearly twice the energy it receives from the Sun. But up to now, they have
not been able to explain the phenomenon in a way that makes sense, he said.
- Earth's magnetic field is an even bigger mystery. Some
mechanism obviously generates the field, and many scientists think the
field is formed from fluid iron in Earth's main outer core acting like
a giant electric dynamo, or motor. The geomagnetic field, as it is called,
shuts down periodically and sometimes reverses its polarity -- with the
North and South poles exchanging their magnetic charges.
- The energy sources previously thought to power the dynamo
are unable to decrease and then increase again, Herndon explained, so scientists
have had to resort to assuming the dynamo mechanism is inherently unstable.
But a nuclear reactor can decrease power output -- and even shut itself
down -- and come back to life again, increasing to its full operating power,
- Current knowledge of the structure of Earth's interior
is derived mainly from seismic data and chemical analyses of common meteorites,
Herndon continued. Based on that data, scientists estimate about 30 percent
of Earth's mass comprises an outer core, he said, which is thought to consist
of iron and maybe one or more lighter elements such as sulfur.
- The solid inner core is much smaller -- less than 2 percent
of Earth's mass.
- Still, current popular geophysical models cannot explain,
from an energy standpoint, a planet-sized magnetic field that operates
like Earth's -- with its varying power levels and periodic shutdowns, Herndon
- Herndon said he received a major insight when he studied
a different type of meteorite. Enstatite chondrite meteorites, as they
are called, have chemical compositions similar to Earth's interior. Unlike
more common meteorites, enstatite chondrite meteorites contain most of
their uranium in the part of the meteorite that corresponds to Earth's
- It was one of the clues Herndon needed, he said. Uranium
is the heaviest natural element. It makes sense that, over time, solid
uranium particles would rain out from Earth's fluid core at high temperatures.
Because of their high density, they could collect at the very center of
the Earth. After enough uranium collected together, a nuclear reaction
would begin, and that appears to be what happened very soon after the formation
of the planet.
- In 1997, Herndon teamed up with Hollenbach at Oak Ridge.
The laboratory has unique computer programs that can analyze the performance
of different types of nuclear reactors.
- "Dan showed me those numerical simulation programs
could be applied to a nuclear reactor at the center of the Earth,"
Herndon said. "We used data about the uranium content from the meteorite
discoveries to generate simulations at varying power levels."
- A highly persuasive clue arrived in the form of physical
evidence of a nuclear reactor at Earth's core. Recently analyzed samples
of lava rock from deep-source volcanic "hot spots" in Hawaii
and Iceland contained tiny amounts of the isotopes helium-3 and helium-4.
- Although scientists have known about the helium-3 for
some time, they have thought it was left over from Earth's formation some
four-and-a-half billion years ago. But no known physical process could
produce helium-3 except for nuclear fission, Herndon said, and the proportion
of the two helium isotopes matches the prediction of the Oak Ridge simulation.
This is strong evidence that the geo-reactor is at work, he said.
- Based on the simulations, and the helium evidence, Herndon
and Hollenbach theorize a five-mile-wide ball of uranium has been operating
as a nuclear reactor for about 4.5 billion years. Its output is an awesome
4 million megawatts. Much of the energy it produces is heat, and that might
be what powers the mechanism that produces the geomagnetic field, Herndon
- Perhaps more interesting, the Oak Ridge programs suggest
the reactor is a breeder -- that is, it actually produces more nuclear
fuel than it consumes, which is why it has been able to operate over a
time frame that spans nearly the entire existence of the planet. In addition,
the reactor's power level varies in intensity over time and it shuts down
- A nuclear reactor continuously produces lighter elements,
such as strontium or barium, as the uranium fuel fissions -- or splits
apart. Those fission fragments would begin to absorb neutrons -- the subatomic
particles naturally emitted by the fissioning uranium and responsible for
the chain reaction -- thereby preventing them from splitting other atoms.
- "One might imagine instances in which the rate of
production of fission products exceeds their rate of removal by gravitationally
driven diffusion," Herndon wrote in a recent paper on the subject.
If so, he explained, "the power output of the geo-reactor would decrease
and the reactor might eventually shut down, thereby diminishing and ultimately
shutting down the Earth's magnetic field."
- Over time, as the lighter elements moved away from the
uranium core, the reactor would restart.
- The research is "certainly going to be a major contribution
to geophysics," Hatten S. Yoder, Jr., director emeritus of the Geophysical
Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., told UPI. "They
have developed an explanation for (Earth's) magnetic field and the fact
that you can turn it on and off."
- One of the most remarkable aspects of the planetary core
reactor, Yoder said, is "it only takes a (five-mile) ball of uranium.
That's only 65 percent of all the uranium on Earth."
- The reactor's existence, if proven, solves the problem
of delayed geothermal cooling and explains the observed heat flow, Yoder
said. Without a continuing power source, he said, the heat dissipation
would have ended long ago. But "if you have a ball of uranium at the
center, it would continue to put out heat."
- Herndon said he next plans to search lava samples for
traces of radioactive elements that might have been produced by the geo-reactor
and be light enough to have escaped the core and reach Earth's surface.
Lithium, beryllium, boron and neon are possibilities, he said.
- "It's not an easy task because both rock data and
nuclear data are needed, but it certainly is important," Herndon said.
- Yoder agreed. "High-temperature and high-pressure
experiments are needed to test the composition and melting characteristics
of the core," he said.
- Copyright 2002 by United Press International.
- Note - South African author-researcher Jan Lamprecht
proposed the same concept several years ago during an interview with Jeff.
You can read more about his revolutionary theories at www.HollowPlanets.com.
- Note from Jan regarding the above story:
- Jeff -
- Dr Herndon and I communicated a lot, and he's a great
guy. That man can turn physics on its head (ditto for the other nuclear
scientists who agree with him). All this nonsense about "convection
currents in the core" - phooey.... Planets run on nuclear reactors...
which is the first of several revelations to come...
- Regards, Jan