Oil leak fix? Blow it up!
Nuke would do it, say scientists, but BP resists use of
Posted: May 25, 2010
8:25 pm Eastern
© 2010 WorldNetDaily
Clean-up operations in Gulf of Mexico
Around the world, scientists have turned their ingenuity toward looking for ways to stop the ever-expanding oil slick spreading through the Gulf of Mexico, and one answer keeps popping up: explosives.
Both in Russia and in the U.S., some scientists are suggesting nuclear blasts to bury the oil rig and send molten rock down to seal the leak. Other scientists say smaller, controlled explosions can stop the flow with shock waves.
Regardless of what causes the boom, however, BP would have to consent to the destruction of its leaking Deepwater Horizon well with explosives, something the company seems hesitant to do.
In a telephone conference call with reporters yesterday, Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer for BP exploration and production, said blasting around the well was "not an option we believe we would ever use," because once done, "we would have denied ourselves all other options."
A former senior analyst with the White House Office of Science and Technology, Rich Pryor, favors using multiple, simultaneous explosions to pinch the leaking pipe closed rather than a nuke to bury it. The nuclear physicist told WND there are several good ideas available to BP, but they include sacrificing the Deepwater Horizon.
"That may be the reason [for BP's hesitation]," Pryor told WND. "Once you pinch the pipe, it's done; it will shut down the well."
BP, however, has insisted its resistance is based on the use of explosives, not a desire to salvage the well. Suttles told reporters earlier this month BP has conceded the need to "permanently plug" the gushing well and has "absolutely no intent to ever, ever produce this well."
The nuclear option
Reports in a pair of Russian newspapers have been pushing the idea that a nuclear blast could stop the leaking oil and that the former Soviet nation has done it before successfully.
"It sounds terrible and incredible – an idiotic joke," writes Valdimir Lagowski in the Russian daily Komsomoloskaya Pravda. "But in fact there were several cases where catastrophes in the fields were fought this way in the former USSR – five times – when nothing else has helped."
According to the report, the first attempt was in 1966, when a 30-kiloton explosion (the Hiroshima bomb was about 20 kilotons) extinguished a burning gas well six kilometers beneath the surface.
Lagowski reports that the nuclear solution has only failed once, when a four-kiloton explosion failed to penetrate the ground far enough.
"Of course, we used a civilian nuclear program on the ground, and the Americans [are working] in the sea," Lagowski concedes, but then claims the scientific principle is no different and "the U.S. is full of smart scientists and powerful computers."
The Moscow Times further reported that Alexander Moskalenko, head of GCE, a St. Petersburg-based group that advises oil companies, is also suggesting the nuclear option.
The Russians, however, aren't the only ones talking nukes.
Christopher Brownfield, a former nuclear submarine officer and a visiting scholar on nuclear policy at Columbia University, wrote a piece in The Daily Beast echoing the Russian solution.
"This was not simply an aggressive urge to brandish the most beastly of weapons in our mighty American arsenal, but a serious way to snuff out an enormous problem that grows worse by the day," Brownfield writes. "For more than 100 years, explosives have been used to break the necks of runaway oil wells, snapping the long, narrow columns and sealing them shut with tons and tons of rock."
Brownfield also cited the 1966 Russian experiment: "The practice was well documented by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of our nuclear-weapons facilities."
But would the White House even consider a nuke?
Earlier this month, the London Telegraph reports, President Obama's Energy Secretary Steven Chu sent a team of nuclear physicists to BP's main crisis center in Houston, Texas. Included on the team was 82-year-old Richard Garwin, who designed the first hydrogen bomb, and Tom Hunter, head of the U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, N.M.
Still, Pryor told WND, given Obama's stance on nuclear weaponry, "I think there might be a lot of resistance to that."
Brownfield also conceded, "Using nuclear weapons, even for peaceful purposes, would be problematic for a president who stood in Prague and declared that the world should rid itself of such devices. … The dilemma seems clear: Either Obama leaves BP in charge of managing its own short-term interests, or he can take charge and stop this spill immediately by pulling the trigger on a nuclear option with severe political and environmental aftershocks."
The non-nuclear option
Even Brownfield, however, has suggested BP also consider putting America's supercomputers – instead of its super explosives – to work at solving the problem.
"Our military could potentially use a carefully placed combination of conventional explosives to collapse the well," Brownfield suggested. "Our technology is much better than that of the Soviet Union in 1966, so we should be able to make this work without having to go nuclear."