Could We Stop the Gulf Leak With a Nuke? Maybe, But We’re Not Going To

As the Gulf oil leak continues unhindered today, BP is trying yet another tactic to stem the flow of crude into coastal waters. But amid the news surrounding this latest effort — it’s another containment dome scheme like the two that failed before, in case you’re keeping score at home — comes this interesting bit of news via the New York Times: The U.S. government has actually addressed the proposed idea of sealing off the well with a nuclear blast. Their stance on the scheme: Absolutely not.

The idea of nuking the oil leak surfaced on various sites of dubious veracity over the past weeks as failure after failure to contain the leak rendered BP and U.S. agencies more and more desperate for a solution. It’s rooted in the idea that, reportedly, the USSR used nuclear blasts to cap off five different gas wells from 1966 to 1981, with all of the attempts successful but the last.

Since then, the idea seems to have gained more and more adherents — a Houston-based energy expert claimed Friday that “all the best scientists” are behind the idea (see video below) — lending credence to the notion that the U.S. might attempt the tactic as other options seem to be running out. The fact that the New York Times actually asked DOE officials about it shows just how much traction the idea of dropping a nuke to the seabed off the coast of Louisiana has gained in the popular consciousness.

But just for the record, when the Times did ask, a DOE spokeswoman said the option never was, and is not, on the table. Aside from the fact that we would be entering technologically uncharted waters (all the alleged Soviet attempts to cap wells with nukes took place on land), to detonate a nuke in this day and age, even for peaceful purposes, would violate a variety of international agreements and perhaps undo whatever progress President Obama has made toward disarmament.

So no, we’re not going to drop a nuke in the Deepwater Horizon wellhead. But if you’re the type who enjoys mingling with the more sensational side of what the Internet has to offer, check out this article from Russia’s Pravda, which kicked off discussion of the nuclear option in the first place (can we tempt you by noting that the film “Armageddon” is used as an analogy within the piece?). After that, it’s probably a good idea to let this one die.

New York Times