Nuke It Closed?

Matt Simmons’ interview on Bloomberg News

Forty days and forty nights– that’s how long the rupture of BP’s Macondo Well has been spilling its oily guts into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of nearly a million gallons per day. That is,  if you accept the twice revised estimates of BP and the US government that initially pegged the flow at 42,000 gallons per day. Other estimates peg the amount much, much higher.

Now that “Top Kill” has joined BP’s other failed attempts to stem the flow,  some of the more exotic theories about the nature of the leak,  the rate of its flow, and possible remediation measures are being given airplay by the MSM.

For instance. oil industry expert, Matt Simmons, says there may a second leak site not being reported that dwarfs the one that’s getting all the attention, pointing out that the amount of oil being released from the broken BOP valve can’t account for the giant underwater oil plumes that are being reported. He suggests that the entire wellhead may have collapsed. Conventional wisdom has it that  the plumes are being created by the heavy use of dispersants, but no one knows for sure.

(It should be noted that Simmons expertise is not in engineering but in the investment banking sector that finances oil exploration. He is noted for his predictions about peak oil.)

The first plume was discovered by scientists aboard  a NOAA chartered vessel, The Pelican, on May 12th. They were prevented from doing further research on it as their contract wasn’t renewed after May16th. NOAA did fund a second expedition, which  discovered a second, gigantic plume on May 27th by scientists  from the University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences.

This second plume is estimated to be 22 miles long, 6 miles wide, and 3300 feet deep, moving just beneath the surface and heading towards the coast,  in contrast to the first plume which appeared to be heading out to sea. It is possible that this newly discovered plume could entrain with Loop Current and find its way into the Florida Keys.

Simmons suggests we should nuke the whole formation closed: “Probably the only thing we can do is create a weapons system and send it down 18,000 feet and detonate it, hopefully encasing the oil.”

As Raw Story reports it:

His idea echoes that of a Russian newspaper that earlier this month suggested the US detonate a small nuclear bomb to seal the oil beneath the sea. Komsomoloskaya Pravda argued in an editorial that Russia had successfully used nuclear weapons to seal oil spills on five occasions in the past.

Live Science reports:

Weapons labs in the former Soviet Union developed special nukes for use to help pinch off the gas wells. They believed that the force from a nuclear explosion could squeeze shut any hole within 82 to 164 feet (25 to 50 meters), depending on the explosion’s power. That required drilling holes to place the nuclear device close to the target wells.

A first test in the fall of 1966 proved successful in sealing up an underground gas well in southern Uzbekistan, and so the Russians used nukes four more times for capping runaway wells.

Simmons also told Bloomberg that the idea to use radical measures like a nuclear bomb to seal the leak is probably not being contemplated by decision-makers “because BP is still totally in charge of the news and they have everyone focused on the top kill.”

I gotta wonder: If it turns out that nuking the Macondo site was a (geologically)  viable option from Day One; and President Obama, always in touch with his inner corporatist, deferred to BP’s claims that they could shut it down per their previously filed contingency plans, just how bad will the political fallout for Obama be? It’s already bad and getting worse by the day.

As Frank Rich writes in Sunday’s NY Times, this could be worse for Obama than Katrina was for Bush.

[Endnote: For a good geeky site that provides technical information and discussion about BP’s oil volcano and the efforts to seal it, see The Oil Drum.]

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