Oklo Announces Submission of Application for Nuclear Reactor

Oklo, a stable fission power company based in Silicon Valley, has submitted its application to the NRC to build its first stable fission nuclear power reactor in Idaho.

4 minutes
March 16, 2020

Oklo Inc, named after a location in Africa that was found to produce nuclear energy naturally, is a Silicon Valley-based company building stable fission reactors it calls "powerhouses" that can safely use nuclear waste to produce energy for general use. Jacob DeWitte, Founder and CEO, announced that on March 12, 2020, Oklo submitted its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build its Aurora powerhouse at the Idaho National Laboratory, the first of Oklo's compact fast reactors intended for real-world use.

This has been in the works for several years, and DeWitte's testimony before congress in 2016 is an encouraging no-nonsense exposition of the technology that is both inspiring and educational.

In 1956, the Japanese-American nuclear scientist Paul Kuroda predicted that a stable nuclear reaction could occur in nature on its own. In 1972, French physicist Francis Perrin discovered one in Oklo, Africa. In the natural uranium deposits there, nuclear chain reactions had propagated and stably produced energy. Groundwater had inundated the uranium deposits nearly 2 billion years ago, acting as a neutron moderator. That is, the groundwater slowed the neutrons of the uranium, making them into thermal neutrons that are much more likely to contribute to fission, and thus putting off kinetic energy. This kinetic energy caused the groundwater to boil away in steam, which then slowed the reaction until it was inundated with groundwater again. DeWitte's company, Oklo Inc, claims to have found a way to use nuclear waste to re-create this same stable fission activity, which it says can eliminate the risk of the highly-volatile nuclear reactors we are familiar with, and that require large amounts of cooling and harbor the threat of potential core melt-downs. Instead, it can simply harness the same ancient, naturally-stable process to produce fission energy.

The Idaho National Laboratory alone has hundreds of tons of nuclear waste. Oklo's Aurora powerhouse, designed as a self-contained A-frame cabin, is intended to utilize this waste to produce large amounts of electricity for general use. If Oklo's application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is approved and the Aurora powerhouse is a success, many more tons of nuclear waste throughout the United States could be leveraged to create numerous micro-grids across the country of stable, clean, nuclear power that is free of the greenhouse gas emissions inherent in other sources of energy.

Oklo's Aurora powerhouse design for a stable fission reactor in Idaho. Image: Oklo
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