The Oklo mine in Gabon is thought to be the site of the only natural nuclear fission reactors.

An Instagram video posted by Instagram user matrixdisclosure claims it was actually man-made.

Nobel prize winner Glenn T. Seaborg also claimed that the nuclear reactor **wasn't a natural occurrence

but instead a man-made product.

His reason for saying this was that there are very specific conditions needed in order for uranium to react.

One condition is that water needs to be very pure, much more pure than it's (sic) natural state.

A 1977 book, Secrets of the Lost Races, by Rene Noorbergen suggests that Seaborg raised these issues, but doesn't say that he concluded it was man-made:

It was on September 25, 1972, when Dr. Francis Perrin, former chairman of the French High Commission for Atomic Energy, presented a report to the French Academy of Sciences concerning the discovery of the remains of a prehistoric nuclear chain reaction. Perrin's first inkling came when workers at the French Uranium Enrichment Center observed that uranium ore from a new mine at Oklo, 40 miles northwest of Franceville in Gabon, West Africa, was markedly depleted of uranium 235.

All uranium deposits in the world today contain 0.715 per cent of U 235, but the Oklo mine uranium showed levels as low as 0.621 per cent. The only explanation that could be given for the missing U 235 was that it had been "burned" in a chain reaction. Evidence in support of this conclusion surfaced when investigators at the French Atomic Center at Cadarache detected four rare elements—neodymium, samarium, europium and cerium—in forms that are typical of the residue from uranium fission! Dr. Perrin concluded his report with the opinion that the Oklo uranium had undergone a nuclear chain reaction which had been spontaneously set off by natural causes. Since the Oklo uranium deposits were geologically estimated to be 1.7 billion years old, Dr. Perrin suggested that this is when the reaction took place, for at that time the uranium would have been at its purest.

Following the publication of Dr. Perrin's report by the French Academy of Sciences, however, questions concerning his conclusions were raised by many experts. Glenn T. Seaborg, former head of the United States Atomic Energy Commission and Nobel prize winner for his work in the synthesis of heavy elements, pointed out that for uranium to "burn" in a reaction, conditions must be exactly right. Water is needed as a moderator to slow down the neutrons released as each uranium atom is split, in order to sustain the chain reaction. This water must be extremely pure. Even a few parts per million of any contaminant will "poison" the reaction, bringing it to a halt. The problem is that no water that pure exists naturally anywhere in the world!

A second objection to Dr. Perrin's report involved the uranium itself. Several specialists in reactor engineering remarked that at no time in the geologically estimated history of the Oklo deposits was the uranium ore rich enough in U 235 for a natural reaction to have taken place. Even when the deposits supposedly were first formed, because of the slow rate of radioactive disintegration of U 235, the fissionable material would have constituted only 3 per cent of the deposits—far too low a level for a "burn." Yet a reaction did take place, suggesting that the original uranium was far richer in U 235 than a natural formation could have been.

A 1972 article in the New York Times, Evidence Shows a Nuclear Reaction Occurred Spontaneously Long Ago similarly suggests that Seaborg was puzzled, but not that he concluded it was man-made.

When Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg, former head of the United States Atomic Energy Commission and a Nobel laureate for his work on heavy elements, was told of the discovery, he said: "That is fantastic." However, he added that, if any atomic explosions occurred, they were probably little more than "fizzles."

As Dr. Seaborg pointed out, in a reactor burning such fuel "you have to have things exactly right." Water or some other "moderator" is needed to slow down the neutrons re leased as each atom is split so that they are not moving too fast for absorption by other atoms, to sustain the chain re action.

Furthermore, the moderator and the fuel must be extremely pure. Even a few parts per million of a contaminant, such as boron, will "poison" the reaction, bringing it to a halt. How the necessary conditions could arise underground under natural circumstances, said Dr. Seaborg, is "really puzzling."

Putting aside whether the Okla reactor was or wasn't man-made, did Glenn Seaborg really claim that is was?

  • 1
    Describing it as a "reactor" was always a bit of a strech. "Slowly-fissioning underground uranium lodes" doesn't sound nearly as exiting though. It also sounds not at all "really puzzling" how such a things should occur at various places and times. Commented May 23, 2020 at 21:58
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    @DavidTonhofer, you are right. I simply used the usual name (appeal to tradition fallacy) and Oddthinking kept it (appeal to authority fallacy). }:-] Commented May 24, 2020 at 6:52
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    I'm recalling that when this discovery first appeared in scientific journals back in the 70s there was a lot of discussion/uncertainty/disagreement as to how/whether a "nuclear reactor" could have spontaneously formed in the fashion suggested. Apparently the amount and concentration of uranium (which would have been naturally richer in U235 nearly 2 billion years ago than now) was sufficient to "go critical". The question is what (if anything) "moderated" the reaction. I didn't follow it (kids intervened) so I don't know how/if it was resolved. Commented May 24, 2020 at 23:43
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    @DavidTonhofer: I was unhappy with the connotations of "reactor" too, but when I looked to Wikipedia it seemed to be the widely used term. I didn't want to add a bias and confusion by putting in a personal replacement for it.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 5:10
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    @AgentSmith The Oklo reactor ran at 100 KW (at peak) for a million years. Human commercial nuclear reactors are in the 1 GW range. A 100 KW reactor would have many of the fixed costs of a real reactor at 1/10,000 the power output, and would be far from cheaper.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Jan 11 at 0:03

1 Answer 1


The Instagram video is a snippet of a longer video from Beyond Science's Facebook page.

It appears that some genuine quotes from Glenn T. Seaborg explaining that the find was puzzling have been misconstrued and/or misrepresented in the video to suggest that he favoured a completely different conjecture - that it was man-made.

HoaxOrFact has already looked into it.

The mention about the Nobel prize winner Glenn T. Seaborg saying that the nuclear reactor wasn’t a natural occurrence, but a man-made product seems to be taken from a related article on Ancient Code website ancient-code.com in May 2015. But the article only mentions Glenn T. Seaborg pointing that for Uranium to “burn” in a reaction, conditions must be exactly right, like the water involved in the nuclear reaction must be extremely pure.

  • OK, is "Darwin said that it was absurd to propose that the human eye evolved " over again. Upvoted. If [BIG if] nobody writes a better answer, I will accept yours in a few days. Commented May 23, 2020 at 16:46

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