It’s day 45 of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and BP’s seventh approach to stopping the leak is facing major obstacles. Is it time to go nuclear?
Some experts say the U.S. should take a page out of the Soviet Union’s playbook and detonate a nuclear bomb deep in the earth at the site of the spill, with the goal of shifting the bedrock to block the oil.
“Obama should be discussing the possibility of using an atomic weapon to seal the leak,” National Review’s Dan Foster wrote Wednesday, adding that the dangers of the approach are “preferable to the blanketing of thousands of miles of American coastline in ribbons of tar.”
The Soviets used the approach five times to stop gushing oil spills but never at a deep-sea location like the site of the current spill, a leading Russian newspaper notes.
Proponents were hopeful the Obama administration was considering the approach. For instance, Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu brought together a team of scientists to examine outside the box approaches that includes the man who invented the hydrogen bomb.
But a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, Stephanie Mueller, said nuking the oil spill was “never considered” because it is “too dangerous.” She said the approach was “not on the table,” but did not explain the dangers of the approach further.
BP, on the other hand, did look at using conventional explosives (the company is not in possession of any nuclear warheads), but ruled out the approach because “there was a risk it could make the situation worse,” spokesman Graham MacEwen said.
MacEwen added there was “no guarantee [the blast] would seal the well, and it could have opened a much wider” hole for the oil to gush out from. MacEwen declined to comment on whether any federal authorities had examined the nuclear option.
Besides potentially making the spill worse, detonating a nuke could also leak radioactive material into the ocean. Just how much is uncertain.
Meanwhile, BP’s plan to use a diamond-studded saw to cut through the blown-out well ran into major problems Wednesday when the saw became stuck. It has since been freed.
The number of approaches that have failed – as well as the grisly prospect of enduring the gushing oil until August, when BP will finish relief wells that will reduce the pressure on the blown out well – is provoking a national effort to find a solution.
BP and the federal government’s oil spill response efforts are now both listing dedicated phone numbers on their websites for ordinary citizens to call in proposed solutions. The effort is probably less an effort to brainstorm and more focused on handling the numerous well-meaning phone calls.
Another approach suggested was to lower deflated tires into the well and then inflate them, forwarded by a “genius” who began her Ph.D. at age 14.