Nuke that slick  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , , ,

True Slant has an intersting (albeit insane) idea for dealing with BP's ever-growing environmental disaster in the gulf of mexico, proposing that they follow the Soviet example and nuke the leaking well head - Nuke that slick.

As BP prepares to lower a four-story, 70-ton dome over the oil gusher under the Gulf of Mexico, the Russians — the world’s biggest oil producers — have some advice for their American counterparts: nuke it.

Komsomoloskaya Pravda, the best-selling Russian daily, reports that in Soviet times such leaks were plugged with controlled nuclear blasts underground. The idea is simple, KP writes: “the underground explosion moves the rock, presses on it, and, in essence, squeezes the well’s channel.”

Yes! It’s so simple, in fact, that the Soviet Union, a major oil exporter, used this method five times to deal with petrocalamities. The first happened in Uzbekistan, on September 30, 1966 with a blast 1.5 times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb and at a depth of 1.5 kilometers. KP also notes that subterranean nuclear blasts were used as much as 169 times in the Soviet Union to accomplish fairly mundane tasks like creating underground storage spaces for gas or building canals.

These kinds of surgical strikes to shut off underground leaks, however, were carried out only five times, with the last one occuring in 1979. And there was only one misfire, near Kharkov, Ukraine, where a nuclear blast was unable to stanch a gas leak.

Al Gore has an article in The New Republic arguing that "the oil spill could change everything" - The Crisis Comes Ashore.
The continuing undersea gusher of oil 50 miles off the shores of Louisiana is not the only source of dangerous uncontrolled pollution spewing into the environment. Worldwide, the amount of man-made CO2 being spilled every three seconds into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding the planet equals the highest current estimate of the amount of oil spilling from the Macondo well every day. Indeed, the average American coal-fired power generating plant gushes more than three times as much global-warming pollution into the atmosphere each day—and there are over 1,400 of them.

Just as the oil companies told us that deep-water drilling was safe, they tell us that it’s perfectly all right to dump 90 million tons of CO2 into the air of the world every 24 hours. Even as the oil spill continues to grow—even as BP warns that the flow could increase multi-fold, to 60,000 barrels per day, and that it may continue for months—the head of the American Petroleum Institute, Jack Gerard, says, "Nothing has changed. When we get back to the politics of energy, oil and natural gas are essential to the economy and our way of life." His reaction reminds me of the day Elvis Presley died. Upon hearing the tragic news, Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, said, “This changes nothing.”

However, both the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the CO2 spill into the global atmosphere are causing profound and harmful changes—directly and indirectly. The oil is having a direct impact on fish, shellfish, turtles, seabirds, coral reefs, marshes, and the entire web of life in the Gulf Coast. The indirect effects include the loss of jobs in the fishing and tourism industries; the destruction of the health, vitality, and rich culture of communities in the region; imminent bankruptcies; vast environmental damage expected to persist for decades; and the disruption of seafood markets nationwide.

And, of course, the consequences of our ravenous consumption of oil are even larger. Starting 40 years ago, when America's domestic oil production peaked, our dependence on foreign oil has steadily grown. We are now draining our economy of several hundred billion dollars a year in order to purchase foreign oil in a global market dominated by the huge reserves owned by sovereign states in the Persian Gulf. This enormous and increasing transfer of wealth contributes heavily to our trade and current-account deficits, and enriches regimes in the most unstable region of the world, helping to finance both terrorism and Iran’s relentless effort to build a nuclear arsenal.

The profound risk to our national and economic security posed by the prospect of the world’s sudden loss of access to Persian Gulf oil contributed greatly to the strategic miscalculations and public deceptions that led to our costly invasion of Iraq, including the reckless diversion of military and intelligence assets from Afghanistan before our mission there was accomplished.

I am far from the only one who believes that it is not too much of a stretch to link the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and northwestern Pakistan—and even last week’s attempted bombing in Times Square—to a long chain of events triggered in part by our decision to allow ourselves to become so dependent on foreign oil.

Here at home, the illusion that we can meaningfully reduce our dependence on foreign oil by taking extraordinary risks to develop deep reserves in the Outer Continental Shelf is illuminated by the illustration below. The addition to oil company profits may be significant, but the benefits to our national security are trivial.



Information Is Beautiful has some interesting visualisations of how much oil is leaking into the gulf - In Deep Water: Can we afford to spill any oil?.

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