Physical Insights

An independent scientist’s observations on society, technology, energy, science and the environment. “Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.” – Carl Sagan

Detecting a nuclear fission reactor at the centre of the Earth.

with 2 comments

Some months ago I wrote a post discussing Marvin Herndon’s controversial theory regarding a nuclear fission reactor, a “georeactor”, at the molten core of the Earth. One point I noted is that it should be entirely practical to falsify such a theory, to test it, to prove the existence of and to study the characteristics of such a nuclear reactor, by simply studying the flux of neutrinos (electron antineutrinos, specifically) from inside the Earth.

Here’s an interesting paper I found discussing just that.

Of course, the usual cautions regarding ArXiv preprint material apply – it is not peer-reviewed, and should be treated with skeptical scrutiny and caution.

Ultimately, the best possible site for a geo-reactor search is Hawaii (panel d) in Fig. 1). This option requires however, construction of a new excavated laboratory. In Hawaii, situated entirely on the oceanic crust with very low geo-U/Th. only the small signal from U/Th deep in the Mantle is visible. The remoteness from populated continents on either side reduces the power reactor signals to a comfortably low level.

With these considerations in mind, I wonder if the IceCube experiment at the South Pole wouldn’t be a much more useful detector site, with perhaps the best possible isolation from manmade reactors as well as geological U/Th radioactivity as you could possibly get? Not to mention the fact that the detector itself already exists, and doesn’t need to be constructed.

Written by Luke Weston

October 14, 2008 at 5:04 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I’ve often wondered what the societal impact of the discovery of a planetary georeactor would be. At first blush, the whole idea looks very plausible, and may indeed be what is going on at the center of the earth.

    But how would people respond if they were told that nuclear fission–that power source that the anti-nukes have pounded into their brains for years as being anti-“green” and anti-“environment”–was actually the motive force of plate tectonics, carbon recycling, and life itself?

    That would be a staggering paradigm shift. No longer could fission be regarded as something man “discovered”, rather as something that man “recreated” from a pre-existing, entirely natural process. Fission reactors would have to be judged by their design characteristics and performance, rather than some vague concept of “unnaturalness” that seems to pervade the discussion today.

    There may be an analogy here between Pluto’s planethood and the georeactor. When I read some of my favorite space books to my 6-yr-old, and they refer to Pluto as a planet, my 6-yr-old is quick to correct them: “Pluto is not a planet, Daddy…”

    It took the discovery of many Kuiper belt objects and finally a few the same size as Pluto to instigate its demotion from planethood.

    Perhaps it will take the discovery of the georeactor to promote nuclear fission to a “green, natural, renewable” power source.

    Kirk Sorensen

    October 14, 2008 at 6:39 pm

  2. If I am not wrong, the Ice Cube experiment is only sensitive to neutrino energies in the 5-10 GeV range while the fission enrgy spectrum is below 10 MeV.

    See info under the link at Science in the

    P. Jagam

    December 6, 2008 at 1:10 am

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