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Is The Earth Powered By A Giant Nuclear Reactor?

By James Donahue

Scientists have puzzled over the power source that keeps the planets in our solar system turning, volcanos erupting, and a measured amount of radiation spewing into space that exceeds the amount they can receive from the Sun.

There has been a recent theory entertained by scientists in France that the Earth may be powered by a massive thermal-nuclear reactor created by a ball of uranium that makes up the planet's core.

Recently, geo-scientist J. Marvin Herndon of Transdyne Corporation, San Diego, California, and Daniel F. Hollenback, a nuclear engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, analyzed data that gives hard evidence to this theory. They believe that such a reactor really exists and that it may have been operating since the formation of the planet.

The idea was first developed by French scientists after the remnants of a large, natural reactor were found inside a uranium mine in western Africa over 30 years ago. Herndon heard about the finding in this mine, did his research, and in 1992 published a series of papers proposing planet sized nuclear reactors that might explain the behavior of planets.

Since we are incapable of digging a hole deep enough to look, all we know about the structure of the Earth is derived mostly from seismic data and analyses of the chemical make-up of other objects in space such as meteorites. Based on what we know, science estimates that about 30 percent of the planet's mass involves an outer core, mostly made up of iron and lighter elements such as silver. But there is a belief in a solid inner core that is much smaller, less than two percent of the mass of the planet.

Rather than hot molten iron, Herndon suggests that the heaviest element, uranium, collected at the core of the planet back when it was being formed. When enough uranium was present, a nuclear reaction begin. Once started, it would continue for millions of years and still be occurring.

Support for this idea was found in enstatite chondrite meteorites, which have chemical compositions much like the interior of the Earth. And these meteorites contain most of their uranium in the core.

If correct, the nuclear reactor operating in the heart of the Earth is generating a magnetic field and keeps the planet's outer core acting like a giant electric dynamo. This geomagnetic field even shuts down periodically and can even reverse its polaritym, Herndon suggests.

To test his theories, Herndon teamed up with Hollenbach in an Oak Ridge laboratory that has a computer program capable of analyzing the performance of different types of nuclear reactors.

Based on the simulations and evidence collected from various "hot-spots" on the surface of the planet, Herndon and Hollenbach theorize that a five-mile-wide ball of uranium is operating at the core of the Earth as a nuclear reactor. They believe its output can be measured at up to 4 million megawatts.

The research also suggests that this natural reactor also is a breeder. That means it produces more nuclear fuel that it consumes which explains why it has been operating successfully since the beginning of the planet's history.