I continue to get emails asking me why the U.S. won't use the nuclear option on the BP well. Usually there is also the question about the fractured seafloor all around the well and worries about "plumes of oil" leaking everywhere.
This story stems from an Internet article that won't die. Google "Gulf of Mexico Sea Floor Fractured" and you will get hundreds of hits from every obscure website you can imagine. The story got its credibility from repetition more than anything else. If the blog sites repeat it enough then it becomes true in the blogosphere consciousness.
In theory BP called on Russia immediately after the Horizon exploded and sank. BP reportedly wanted Russian scientists to go down and look at the well site because the Russians have two deep dive craft that can take humans down to more than 19,000 feet.
Is it starting to make you wonder yet? BP has a dozen highly capable robots that do this kind of work every day of the year. They have remote control arms, multiple cameras and are familiar with oil wells, blow out preventers and ruptured pipelines. These robots were already in the gulf and were working on trying to shut off the well while the Horizon was still on fire. Why would BP call the Russians to bring a piloted sub of their own to look at the well? (Movie producer James Cameron with multiple deepwater subs of his own offered their use to BP and was turned down.)
It gets even stranger. According to the story the Russians were required by the United Sates to sign documents forbidding them to report their findings to either the American public or media. Don't you think even the existence of a document like that would be a liability in its own right? This is ludicrous.
Reportedly the Russian scientists were so concerned about the "fractured sea floor" that they leaked their information to none other than peak oil notable Matthew Simmons who immediately went public with his end of the world as we know it press conferences.
Simmons claims the seafloor is fractured as a result of the BP blowout and oil is leaking up at multiple spots miles away from the wellhead. Not small leaks but "massive amounts of oil" and the end of life in the gulf. Simmons warned that BP can't possibly stop the leaks and there are only two options. The first would be letting the well run wild for the next 30 years and ruining the Atlantic Ocean as well as the gulf. The second would be to nuke the well.
Simmons does not explain how nuking the well will stop leaks from fractures miles away. The Russian scientists reportedly told Simmons there is oil leaking into the gulf from at least 18 other sites with the largest being a fracture seven miles from the well. Just exactly how did a 18,000 foot well fracture the ocean floor seven miles away?
This entire story only gets more bizarre with the "if we don't nuke it the gulf will die" claim. The administration said more than once that nuking the well is not an option. Nuking the well could actually make it much worse. What do you think would fracture the sea floor more, a leaking well 18,000 feet down or a nuclear explosion under 5,000 feet of water. A nuke would pulverize everything within a mile radius and a mile down and produce tons of radioactive waste.
It would crush pipes but not magically weld them shut. It would crush fragile geology under the ocean floor but not magically seal it under a dome of glass. This is unbelievable that the option continues to be discussed.
Reportedly Russia used nukes five times to successfully cap blown-out gas and oil surface wells and tried a sixth one that did not work. Russia is reportedly "pleading" with the U.S. to use a nuke in the gulf in order to save the planet. Funny, I did not think Russia was really into that saving the planet concept given their horrible track record of polluting.
In the area of the gulf around the well there are other abandoned well, producing wells and a production pipeline that is crucial for other wells in the area. Odds are very good a nuke would fracture or break other wells and the pipelines. This is simply not an option.
The next time you hear someone talking about this please mention just a couple of the points above. It won't do any good because urban legends don't require any truth to continue.
The answer is and always has been the relief wells. They will drill to the bottom of the first well and then force cement into the oil reservoir under extremely high pressure in order to stop the flow of oil and gas up the pipe. This has always been the answer to blown out wells for 50 years. Once the flow stops BP will pour cement into the top of the well to insure it will never come back to life.
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