The Nuclear Option

It was September of 1966, and gas was gushing uncontrollably from the wells in the Bukhara province of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. But the Reds, at the height of their industrial might, had a novel solution. They drilled nearly four miles into the sand and rock of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, and lowered a 30-kiloton nuclear warhead — more than half-again as large as “Little Boy,” the crude uranium bomb dropped over Hiroshima — to the depths beneath the wellhead. With the pull of a lever, a fistful of plutonium was introduced to itself under enormous pressure, setting off the chain reaction that starts with E = MC2 and ends in Kaboom! The ensuing blast collapsed the drill channel in on itself, sealing off the well.

The Soviets repeated the trick four times between 1966 and 1979, using payloads as large as 60 kilotons to choke hydrocarbon leaks. Now, as the Obama administration stares into the abyss of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and a slicker of sweet, medium crude blankets the Gulf of Mexico, slouching its way toward American beaches and wetlands, Russia’s newspaper of record is calling on the president to consider this literal “nuclear option.”

As well he should. It’s a little less crazy than it sounds. The simple fact is that the leak has confounded all conventional efforts to quell it, forcing British Petroleum and its federal overseers to resort to a series of untested, increasingly unwieldy, and heretofore unsuccessful backup plans as the American people’s impatience and rage grow at geometric rates. In the madness that is Deepwater Horizon, The Bomb may be the sanest choice.

More.

0 Responses to The Nuclear Option

  • Maybe it would work, but my initial reaction is that I’d rather the oil than a nuclear explosion that close to the city of New Orleans. Maybe it can be done with radiation damage, but count me skeptical.

  • Apparently it worked well enough for the Russians, but it’s never been done underwater. Then again, BP keeps backing up the “when we’ll have it sealed” promise. We may have no choice to prevent an unimaginable catastrophe.

  • A big question is what it will do, not on the nature of radiation, but the potential to actually damage the floor more.

  • I assume that means loss of the well and any chance of recovery of the oil. These other options seem to leave opent the possibility of some recovery (which can then be used to offset the costs of cleanup). After so much invested, I am sure BP wants to try to salvage what it can for as long as it can, before going nuclear.

    As bad as this is, in the grand scheme of things drilling in the Gulf has been pretty successful – its been going on for so many years, thousands of wells, and I have only heard of this and one other incident of these proportions.

  • All we need now is a nice big hurricane to suck up all the oily water and dump it inland.

  • Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

    (1) With a hydraulic force pushing out 5k+ barrels a day, how do you expect to get a bomb down the well bore?
    (2) If you could over come that force, why not just set a bridge plug in it?
    (3) Assuming you do bomb it, how can they provide zonal isolation to ensure it won’t make the problem worse.

    Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

  • It’s a little early to resort to the nuclear option. After all, movie producer James Cameron has only been on the case a week or so.

  • Well said, RL. I’m a little reluctant to take advice on capping oil wells from op ed writers.

  • I agree that the use of the nuclear option is way too early, but part of me would love reading the headline:

    OBAMA DROPS THE BIG ONE!

  • They can plug the leak with 300 liberal congresspersons.

    No.

    Obama’s intention is to destroy the evil, racist Gulf Coast. He cannot possibly be this incompetent.

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