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Posted: 6/3/2010 5:51:16 AM EDT
Nuclear Option on Gulf Oil Spill? No Way, U.S. Says

By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Published: June 2, 2010

The chatter began weeks ago as armchair engineers brainstormed for ways to stop the torrent of oil  spilling into the Gulf of Mexico: What about nuking the well?

Decades ago, the Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear blasts to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow. Why not try it here?

The idea has gained fans with each failed attempt to stem the leak and each new setback — on Wednesday, the latest rescue effort stalled when a wire saw being used to slice through the riser pipe got stuck.

“Probably the only thing we can do is create a weapon system and send it down 18,000 feet and detonate it, hopefully encasing the oil,” Matt Simmons, a Houston energy expert and investment banker, told Bloomberg News on Friday, attributing the nuclear idea to “all the best scientists.”

Or as the CNN reporter John Roberts suggested last week, “Drill a hole, drop a nuke in and seal up the well.”

This week, with the failure of the “top kill” attempt, the buzz had grown loud enough that federal officials felt compelled to respond.

Stephanie Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said that neither Energy Secretary Steven Chu nor anyone else was thinking about a nuclear blast under the gulf. The nuclear option was not — and never had been — on the table, federal officials said.

“It’s crazy,” one senior official said.

Government and private nuclear experts agreed that using a nuclear bomb would be not only risky technically, with unknown and possibly disastrous consequences from radiation, but also unwise geopolitically — it would violate arms treaties that the United States has signed and championed over the decades and do so at a time when President Obama is pushing for global nuclear disarmament.

The atomic option is perhaps the wildest among a flood of ideas proposed by bloggers, scientists and other creative types who have deluged government agencies and BP, the company that drilled the well, with phone calls and e-mail messages. The Unified Command overseeing the Deepwater Horizon disaster features a “suggestions” button on its official Web site and more than 7,800 people have already responded, according to the site.

Among the suggestions: lowering giant plastic pillows to the seafloor and filling them with oil, dropping a huge block of concrete to squeeze off the flow and using magnetic clamps to attach pipes that would siphon off the leaking oil.

Some have also suggested conventional explosives, claiming that oil prospectors on land have used such blasts to put out fires and seal boreholes. But oil engineers say that dynamite or other conventional explosives risk destroying the wellhead so that the flow could never be plugged from the top.

Along with the kibbitzers, the government has also brought in experts from around the world — including scores of scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other government labs — to assist in the effort to cap the well.

In theory, the nuclear option seems attractive because the extreme heat might create a tough seal. An exploding atom bomb generates temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun and, detonated underground, can turn acres of porous rock into a glassy plug, much like a huge stopper in a leaky bottle.

Michael E. Webber, a mechanical engineer at the University of Texas, Austin, wrote to Dot Earth, a New York Times blog, in early May that he had surprised himself by considering what once seemed unthinkable. “Seafloor nuclear detonation,” he wrote, “is starting to sound surprisingly feasible and appropriate.”

Much of the enthusiasm for an atomic approach is based on reports that the Soviet Union succeeded in using nuclear blasts to seal off gas wells. Milo D. Nordyke, in a 2000 technical paper for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., described five Soviet blasts from 1966 to 1981.

All but the last blast were successful. The 1966 explosion put out a gas well fire that had raged uncontrolled for three years. But the last blast of the series, Mr. Nordyke wrote, “did not seal the well,” perhaps because the nuclear engineers had poor geological data on the exact location of the borehole.

Robert S. Norris, author of “Racing for the Bomb” and an atomic historian, noted that all the Soviet blasts were on land and never involved oil.

Whatever the technical merits of using nuclear explosions for constructive purposes, the end of the cold war brought wide agreement among nations to give up the conduct of all nuclear blasts, even for peaceful purposes. The United States, after conducting more than 1,000 nuclear test explosions, detonated the last one in 1992, shaking the ground at the Nevada test site.

In 1996, the United States championed the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, a global accord meant to end the development of new kinds of nuclear arms. President Obama is pushing for new global rules, treaties and alliances that he insists can go much further to produce a nuclear-free world. For his administration to seize on a nuclear solution for the gulf crisis, officials say, would abandon its international agenda and responsibilities and give rogue states an excuse to seek nuclear strides.

Kevin Roark, a spokesman for Los Alamos in New Mexico, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, said that despite rumors to the contrary, none of the laboratory’s thousands of experts was devising nuclear options for the gulf.

“Nothing of the sort is going on here,” he said in an interview. “In fact, we’re not working on any intervention ideas at all. We’re providing diagnostics and other support but nothing on the intervention side.”

A senior Los Alamos scientist, speaking on the condition of anonymity because his comments were unauthorized, ridiculed the idea of using a nuclear blast to solve the crisis in the gulf.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “Technically, it would be exploring new ground in the midst of a disaster — and you might make it worse.”

Not everyone on the Internet is calling for nuking the well. Some are making jokes. “What’s worse than an oil spill?” asked a blogger on Full Comment, a blog of The National Post in Toronto. “A radioactive oil spill.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/us/03nuke.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 5:55:40 AM EDT
I know very little about the technical aspects of nuclear detonation, but for some reason that just sounds like a real bad idea.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 5:57:36 AM EDT
The people that keep asking for this are not thinking through the problem.



Lets irradiate the leaking oil so it can wash on shore.  Then we have to cleanup radioactive oil.  Sounds brilliant!




Even better, we get a radioactive firecane!




Even better than that, we have the chance to make radioactive fire turtles and fish.




ZOMBIE TURTLES FTMFW!
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:06:16 AM EDT
I think the idea is to detonate the device deep under the sea floor, mitigating the zombie sea turtle problem.

This idea is at least as crazy as some looney idea like using atomic devices to aid in the commercial production of natural gas in New Mexico....oh wait, we actually did that.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:10:01 AM EDT
Why not create a smaller explosion?  How many mega tons does it take to collapse some rock?
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:16:58 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/3/2010 6:17:17 AM EDT by Epyon]
Originally Posted By skygod:
The people that keep asking for this are not thinking through the problem.

Lets irradiate the leaking oil so it can wash on shore.  Then we have to cleanup radioactive oil.  Sounds brilliant!

Even better, we get a radioactive firecane!

Even better than that, we have the chance to make radioactive fire turtles and fish.

ZOMBIE TURTLES FTMFW!


GODZILLA!
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:19:19 AM EDT
in communist russia, oil well close nuclear detonation.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:23:53 AM EDT
Originally Posted By skygod:
The people that keep asking for this are not thinking through the problem.

Lets irradiate the leaking oil so it can wash on shore.  Then we have to cleanup radioactive oil.  Sounds brilliant!

Even better, we get a radioactive firecane!

Even better than that, we have the chance to make radioactive fire turtles and fish.

ZOMBIE TURTLES FTMFW!


these are the same idiots who are probably advocating boycotting BP as well. thats the ticket.. bankrupt them so they have no funds to stop the leak

emotional fucktards all around

yet they seem to not have any good ideas themselves as to how to stop the leak
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:25:20 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/3/2010 6:25:38 AM EDT by California_Kid]
The Soviet experiments with using nuclear explosives to stop runaway gas wells (on land, never underwater) produced highly mixed results.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:27:31 AM EDT
tampons.......
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:28:13 AM EDT
I think this solves the mystery of what happened in The Road.

Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:31:57 AM EDT
This idea SHOULD be on the table.  It doesn't mean that it's the winner, but ignoring one potential solution because of the word 'nuclear' is another symptom of PC thought run amok.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:38:59 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/3/2010 6:39:12 AM EDT by cgrant26]
Originally Posted By Epyon:
Originally Posted By skygod:
The people that keep asking for this are not thinking through the problem.

Lets irradiate the leaking oil so it can wash on shore.  Then we have to cleanup radioactive oil.  Sounds brilliant!

Even better, we get a radioactive firecane!

Even better than that, we have the chance to make radioactive fire turtles and fish.

ZOMBIE TURTLES FTMFW!


GODZILLA!

No, no. It's "GOZIRRA!"

Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:41:41 AM EDT
Isn't the Gulf fishery the largest in the US?
Nuking the well could kill the fisery for years if people won't buy fish from there regardless if there is any danger or not to their health.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 6:56:22 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/3/2010 7:10:58 AM EDT by DriftPunch]
Originally Posted By LoneCoyoteHunter:
Isn't the Gulf fishery the largest in the US?
Nuking the well could kill the fisery for years if people won't buy fish from there regardless if there is any danger or not to their health.


The detonation would be a long way underground...  

As far as image is concerned, if the nuclear option was selected, the value of a true leader could come into play:

"I want to assure the public, that such a detonation will have zero impact on the quality of the seafood coming from the Gulf, nor would it cause undo harm to the fragile ecosystem currently under assault from the rogue well.  The detonation will be miles under the sea floor, and no radiation will escape.  In fact, all the creatures in the area will feel nothing more than a vibration upon detonation.  We have carefully evaluated all other options and the scientific community agrees that while detonating a nuclear device is never offically a 'good thing', it is the safest and quite frankly the most viable way of stopping the continuing environmental disaster facing the entire gulf region."

Edit:  I'm not saying it's the answer because I'm no expert, but if the experts say it's feasable and reasonable, I don't see why not...
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 7:03:21 AM EDT
I don't see why a conventional explosive wouldn't work just as well. Water acts as a tamping agent magnifiying the force of the blast.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 7:10:32 AM EDT
i was just out there last week.

there is an unbelievable amount of drilling rigs scattered all throughout the gulf.

there are hundreds of miles of piping traveling all along the sea floor. some of it owned by BP. most of it not..


i doubt that the bomb tactic (while likely working) will gain traction due to collateral damage.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 7:41:01 AM EDT




Just lower Oprah on top of it, that should be enough to stop any kind of activity.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:11:10 AM EDT
Right now they're trying to intersect the leaking well with new wells, the problem with that is its VERY HARD to hit another well, it will take months of drilling, missing it, backing up, filling the previous hole with concrete, try it again, miss it, ect.



With a nuke, you just need to drill another well "close enough" then the nuke compresses all the surrounding rock, blocking the well.




It would be so far under the sea floor there's no real worries about radiation getting out.



Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:31:25 AM EDT
Originally Posted By _DR:




Just lower Oprah on top of it, that should be enough to stop any kind of activity.


Or maybe just stuff Rosie O'Donnell's ass in there??? Or "get both"???

Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:32:25 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/3/2010 8:33:03 AM EDT by marksman121]
Originally Posted By evo462:
I know very little about the technical aspects of nuclear detonation, but for some reason that just sounds like a real bad idea.


yes and the idea was thrown out for very good reason.
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:35:21 AM EDT
Originally Posted By marksman121:
Originally Posted By evo462:
I know very little about the technical aspects of nuclear detonation, but for some reason that just sounds like a real bad idea.


yes and the idea was thrown out for very good reason.


the heat would turn oil into carbon, the pressure blast would make it a huge ass diamond and DeBeers would be out of business?

Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:35:23 AM EDT
Setting off a nuke at the top in the mud wouldn't seal it...so you would have to go down to rock at a minimum. So how are you going to get a nuke down a casing that has a drill pipe already stuck in it?
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:36:21 AM EDT
Attach jersey walls to Micael Moore and use his fat ass to seal the hole???
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:39:14 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Epyon:
Originally Posted By skygod:
The people that keep asking for this are not thinking through the problem.

Lets irradiate the leaking oil so it can wash on shore.  Then we have to cleanup radioactive oil.  Sounds brilliant!

Even better, we get a radioactive firecane!

Even better than that, we have the chance to make radioactive fire turtles and fish.

ZOMBIE TURTLES FTMFW!


GODZILLA!


T65rW_SIzg0


Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:39:56 AM EDT
Originally Posted By wardog513:
Originally Posted By skygod:
The people that keep asking for this are not thinking through the problem.

Lets irradiate the leaking oil so it can wash on shore.  Then we have to cleanup radioactive oil.  Sounds brilliant!

Even better, we get a radioactive firecane!

Even better than that, we have the chance to make radioactive fire turtles and fish.

ZOMBIE TURTLES FTMFW!


these are the same idiots who are probably advocating boycotting BP as well. thats the ticket.. bankrupt them so they have no funds to stop the leak

emotional fucktards all around

yet they seem to not have any good ideas themselves as to how to stop the leak


Not to worry. Their customers in Iran will pick up the slack. BP won't go away.

Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:45:57 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/3/2010 8:50:58 AM EDT by Thatdude333]



Drill new well close to existing out of control well, drop nuke down new well, detonate nuke, nuke melts & compresses surrounding rock forming a nice hard cap on the well.






(This all happens thousands of feet below the seabed)









 
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:48:26 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Epyon:
Originally Posted By skygod:
The people that keep asking for this are not thinking through the problem.

Lets irradiate the leaking oil so it can wash on shore.  Then we have to cleanup radioactive oil.  Sounds brilliant!

Even better, we get a radioactive firecane!

Even better than that, we have the chance to make radioactive fire turtles and fish.

ZOMBIE TURTLES FTMFW!


GODZILLA!


Would this mean it'd be time to FO?
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:53:46 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/3/2010 8:55:19 AM EDT by lavendermoon]
Originally Posted By Epyon:
Originally Posted By skygod:
The people that keep asking for this are not thinking through the problem.

Lets irradiate the leaking oil so it can wash on shore.  Then we have to cleanup radioactive oil.  Sounds brilliant!

Even better, we get a radioactive firecane!

Even better than that, we have the chance to make radioactive fire turtles and fish.

ZOMBIE TURTLES FTMFW!


GODZILLA!


No!  

Gamera!



Gamera Bio


You guys are slipping badly to forget this one!
Link Posted: 6/3/2010 8:56:39 AM EDT
Nukes are icky. I would never consider them.
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