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Energy expert: Nuking oil leak ‘only thing we can do’

By Daniel Tencer
Saturday, May 29, 2010 19:18 EDT
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BP ‘totally in charge of the news’ about oil leak, energy expert says

As the latest effort to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico meets with failure, the idea of nuking the immediate area to seal the oil underground is gaining steam among some energy experts and researchers.

One prominent energy expert known for predicting the oil price spike of 2008 says sending a small nuclear bomb down the leaking well is “probably the only thing we can do” to stop the leak.

Matt Simmons, founder of energy investment bank Simmons & Company, also says that there is evidence of a second oil leak about five to seven miles from the initial leak that BP has focused on fixing. That second leak, he says, is so large that the initial one is “minor” in comparison.

Simmons spoke to Bloomberg News on Friday, before BP announced that its latest effort to plug the leak, known as the “top kill” method, had failed.

“A week ago Sunday the first research vessel … was commissioned by NOAA to scour the area,” he said. They found “a gigantic plume” growing about five to seven miles from the site of the original leak, Simmons said.

Simmons said the US government should immediately take the effort to plug the leak out of the hands of BP and put the military in charge.

“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,” he said.

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.”

Asked by a Bloomberg reporter about the risks involved in setting off a nuclear bomb off the coast of Louisiana, Simmons argued that a nuclear explosion deep inside a well bore would have little effect on surrounding areas.

“If you’re 18,000 feet under the sea bed, it basically wont do anything [on the surface],” he said.

Joe Wiesenthal at Business Insider says the idea of using nukes will be getting a lot of attention now that the “top kill” procedure has failed.

Next, the so-called “nuclear option” is about to get a lot of attention. In this case, of course, nuclear option is not a euphemism. It’s the real idea that the best way to kill this thing is to stick a small nuke in there and bury the well under rubble. … By the middle of the coming week, it will be all over cable news, as pundits press The White House hard on whether it’s being considered and why not.

The following video was broadcast on Bloomberg News, Friday May 28, 2010.

 
 
 
 
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