The isotopic compositions of xenon released from the Oklo reactor at temperatures below 1000°C are such that the abundances of131Xe,132Xe and134Xe relative to136Xe are markedly enhanced when compared to the relative fission yields from the thermal neutron-induced fission of235U. These anomalies can be attributed to the fact that131Xe,132Xe and134Xe have fairly long-lived precursors: 8.04-day131I, 78.2-hour132Te and 42-minute134Te, respectively. It is possible to determine the duration of the time when the reactor was turned off from the ratios of excess132Xe to excess134Xe in these anomalous xenon fractions released from the Oklo reactor. Calculations based on the available xenon isotope data that the time period during which the reactor was turned off was approximately 2 to 3 hours.
The origin of the concept of a large-scale nuclear chain reaction occurring in nature can be traced back to the ideas expressed byAston in 1922 and byJoliot in 1935. Geochemical investigations on hot springs, which have been carried out at the University of Tokyo since the 1930s, played a key role in the early development of the theory of natural reactor. Results obtained from the studies, which have been carried out in various countries since the 1972 discovery of the Oklo phenomenon, reveal the fact that the natural reactors at Oklo may have indeed operated in a manner quite similar to the geysers or intermittent hot springs. A careful examination of the isotopic compositions of the so-called anomalous xenon from the Oklo reactor suggests that the natural reactors were operating at temperatures between the boiling point of iodine (183°C) and the melting point of tellurium (452°C), periodically being turned on and off.
Isotopic compositions of the strange Xenon components-HL and the s-type xenon can be explained in a straightforward manner as due to the alteration of the isotopic composition of xenon caused by a combined effect of (a) mass-fractionation, (b) spallation and (c) stellar-temperature neutron-capture reactions. As much as 42.49% of total 136Xe (
136Xe) found in the Allende diamond inclusions is 244Pu fission xenon (136fXe) and the trapped xenon is severely mass-fractionated in such a manner that the lighter xenon isotopes are systematically depleted relative to the heavier isotopes. The relative abundances of 130Xe and 132Xe in the trapped xenon component are both markedly enhanced indicating that it was irradiated with a total flux of 1.2·1023 n·cm-2 of stellar-temperature (10 keV) neutrons. The xenon found in the s-type xenon, on the other hand, resemble that of the atmospheric xenon irradiated with a total flux of about 6.0·1023 n·cm-2 of 10 keV neutrons. These results indicate that we are seeing here the effects of nuclear processes occurring inside of a star, such as the exploding supernova.
Until recently, scientists believed that the chemical elements were synthesized only in stars. The discovery of the Oklo Phenomenon in 1972 has revealed, however, that a nuclear fire had existed in terrestrial uranium ore deposits about two billion years ago. The discovery of244Pu fission xenon in extraterrestrial samples, such as the Moon and the meteorites, on the other hand, has demonstrated that the transuranium elements were synthesized in exploding stars (supernovae).
Re-examination of all known xenon isotopic data for the carbonaceous chondrites Renazzo, Mokoia, and Groznaya reveals that these meteorites contain (26±7), (33±1), and (36±4)·10–12 (ccSTP136fXe/g) of244Pu fission xenon, respectively. These meteorites started to retain their xenon more than 4,800 million years ago at about the same time as did the carbonaceous chondrites Allende, Murray, and Murchison.
Re-examination of all known xenon isotopic data for ordinary chondrites reveals that244Pu fission xenon can be resolved in about one-fourth of the meteorites of this class. The amounts of244Pu fission xenon found in these meteorites range from ca. 1–2 up to 6–8·10–12 ccSTP/g. These meteorites started to retain their xenon some 200–500 million years later than did the carbonaceous chondrites Allende, Groznaya, Mokoia, Murchison, Murray, and Renazzo which began to retain their xenon over 4800 million years ago.
Re-examination of a vast amount of existing xenon isotope data, which have been accumulated in the literature since the 1960's, reveals that the variation of the isotopic composition of xenon in the solar system can be attributed to a combined effect of (a) mass-fractionation, (b) spallation and (c) stellar-temperature neutron-capture reactions plus the addition of (d) the beta-decay product of 129I and of (e) the spontaneous fission products of 244Pu. The effect of each of the above-mentioned processes can be extremely large, due, primarily to the fact that these processes occurred in the interior of a supernova, which exploded about 5.1 billion years ago.
We have examined the isotopic compositions of lead reported for 55 terrestrial and 65 lunar samples. The lead ages indicate
that the 4.55 billion years generally accepted as the age of the solar system refers instead to the time of the breakup of
the meteorite parent body.
A number of strange xenon components have been reported in the literature during the past three decades; for example, AVCC (average carbonaceous chondrite), CCF (carbonaceous chondrite fission) xenon, xenon-X, xenon-H, xenon-L, xenon-S, xenon-U, SUCOR (surface correlated xenon), BEOC (Bern Oberflächen-Correliert) xenon, and so on. It is often assumed that they reprsent the isotopic compositions of more or less pure or primordial components of xenon. If one attempts to interpret the existing xenon isotope data for meteorites and lunar samples, assuming that they are pure or primordial, however, one encounters all sorts of problems and no coherent theory concerning the variation of the isotopic composition of xenon in the solar system emerges. We have therefore re-examined over 4,000 sets of existing xenon isotope data for meteorites and lunar samples. The results indicate that these strange xenon components are mixtures of244Pu fission xenon and atmospheric xenon, whose isotopic compositions have been altered by the processes of a) mass-fractionation, b) spallation and c) neutron-capture reactions.