American Morning

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June 11th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Nuke the oil well?

(CNN) – With BP running out of options to control and eventually stop the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, there are some scientists saying it's time to go nuclear. Our Deb Feyerick takes a look at whether it's a serious and safe option.

Filed under: Gulf Oil Spill
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. francnnam

    What's your solution to the Gulf Coast oil disaster?

    Send us your ideas at

    You may be selected to present your idea on air.

    June 15, 2010 at 8:04 am |
  2. Cyriac Kadavil

    in 2010 we had a lot of calamities and cashualities.
    Millions alreay died due to earh quakes.
    When I heard of the idea of nuking the oil well , my first thought was 12 21 2012.
    We are getting there!

    June 14, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  3. Michael P Byrne

    This is such a one sided story it is barely watchable. I realize that these guys are just making it up as they go along, but to give 15 seconds to the sceptic, Professor Hultman, was and is an embarrassment to the News investigation that CNN did. Sure go ahead, go blow a hole in the ocean floor, now that nothing else seems to be working.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  4. Henry Greenberg

    What is the possibility of a leak of radiation from a nuclear explosion to seal BP's oil leak? In the CNN video Deborah Feyerick interviewed an "expert" on nuclear science, Mr. Nathan Hultman, from the University of Maryland. Hultman is a young man who has studied nuclear power for civilian use. Mr. Hultman said that nuking BP's oil leak will definitely cause lots of radiation to enter the Gulf waters causing massive ecological damage.
    However, Mr. Hultman is totally wrong and he is extremely ignorant about nuclear weapons. It's about time that CNN reported the truth about nukes, instead of getting what ever from Mr. Hultman. In addition Mr. Hultman has no clue to the real situation of BP's drilling site.
    In her effort to be fair and balanced in her investigative reporting Deborah Feyerick wiped-out regarding her inclusion of the segment interview with Mr. Hultman. Usually CNN coverage is great and accurate. But Deborah Feyerick did a horrible job by including her interveiw with Mr. Hultman. Shame on the Deborah Feyerick and her CNN producers.
    I hope that CNN does not cut nor censor this blog feedback, in the same manner than BP has acted in this oil disaster. I have already had a blog in this post, and I hope that CNN does limit one blog per person.
    If CNN wants to know the truth about possible radiation leaks, here are the facts. In 1968 in Uzbekistan the Russians sealed a gas leak using a 30 kt nuclear bomb which was exploded 1.5 kilometers underground. 30 kt means the nuclear equivalent of 30,000 tons of conventional TNT. The Russians drilled an underground pipe 1.5 kilometers underground, then inserted the 30 kt nuke, then filled in the pipe with cement. The explosion was a success in stopping the gas leak, and zero radiation leaked up into the air.
    For another example, in the 1960's in the United States, during an underground test of a 5 kt nuke, the explosion occurred 650 feet underground and zero radiation leaked into the air. 5 kt means 5,000 tons of conventional TNT. So 650 feet of natural rock and earth is sufficient to prevent radiation fallout from a 5 kt underground explosion.
    Returning to the Gulf oil leak, I recommend the Davy Crockett nuclear warhead which has a yield of 0.01 kt (or the equivalent of 10 tons of conventional TNT). This 0.01 kt Davy Crockett warhead would be exploded two miles underground, beneath the surface of the sea floor. Therefore, because of the tiny size of the Davy Crockett, and whereas the explosion would occur two miles underground subterranean, there would be zero leakage of radiation fallout into the sea water.
    Therefore, Mr. Nathan Hultman is totally wrong regarding his assessment of the danger of radiation fallout from the use of a nuke to stop the Gulf oil leak. Shame on Deborah Feyerick from including her interview with Mr. Hultman.

    June 14, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  5. Mike M.

    Too many unknowns for me to be secure with this idea. We will concuer this issue at a huge price and learn much from the Nation's worst man made disaster. After the big plug and clean-up is well on the way to seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, BP should be made to pay into large development of free solar and wind energy with their profits after paying off those that has lost so much.

    June 14, 2010 at 7:48 am |
  6. Smith in Oregon

    It is rather exciting to see CNN investigate Operation Plowshare which was specifically conducted by the Federal Dept. of Energy to use nuclear weapons for a wide scale number of uses to 'see' if nuclear weapons could be safely used for various large engineering and geological feats.

    Supposedly, several of the nuclear weapons that were conducted in New Mexico or some other location other than the nuclear testing grounds in Nevada under Operation Plowshare were to open up a huge natural gas cavern. Undoubtedly a small nuclear weapon would do precisely that, however quiet reports and rumors stated the resulting Natural Gas was RADIOACTIVE!

    Strangely this civilian and 'peaceful' use of nuclear weapons under Operation Plowshare has many shots that took place 'classified' !!! What were they used for and WHERE? How comfortable would you be in knowing the Natural Gas flowing into your home was radioactive? American's by and large wouldn't even know unless they got very ill and by luck or accident checked their home for radioactivity.

    Nuclear explosions in shallow shots in the earth produced huge craters and ejected thousands of ton's of radioactive soil on anyone downwind. Very seldom were anyone downwind warned of life threatening radioactive fallout, and very few American's then and now have the equipment to test for radioactive particles and exposure levels.

    The Con's on using a nuclear device to shut-down the Oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico is that could shatter the geology in that region and could significantly disrupt many producing Oil wells across that region.

    A growing concern of mine and many scientists is that the previous top kill operation burst the drill casing in numerous locations deep below the seabed as BP tried to overcome the enormous 13,000 PSI outflow pressure and the drill casing just couldn't take the increased stress resulting in various subterranean blowouts which could directly led to multiple Oil gushing vents on the seafloor.

    Subterranean blowout's might have already happened and are 'ongoing'. BP has a iron fist control over the multiple Remote Control Vehicles and the view is squarely on the blow out preventer, not sweeping across the seafloor in that area to see if in fact there are additional subterranean oil vents issuing directly from the seabed.

    June 14, 2010 at 5:38 am |
  7. Cyriac Kadavil

    What happens if if the wells opens up more instead welding down after nuking? It will be a total disaster!

    June 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
  8. Henry Greenberg

    Facts about the Davy Crockett nuke:
    In the years of 1961 and 1962 the 101st Airborne test fired the Davy Crockett tactical battlefield weapon. The Davy Crockett was fired from a recoilless rifle, whose casing was 30 inches long and weighing 76 lbs. The actual Davy Crockett nuclear fission W54 warhead weighed only 51 lbs., and the yield was 0.01 kt (kilo tons) which was equivalent to ten tons of conventional TNT.

    The Davy Crockett recoilless rifle casing could also be fitted with larger warheads of 18 tons of TNT, and 22 tons of TNT, equivalents.

    The shape of the Davy Crockett W54 warhead looks very similar to an oversize RPG which is currently used by terrorists in Iraq.

    Regarding the very small size of the W54 Davy Crockett warhead (with the equivalent of ten tons of conventional TNT) the resulting nuclear explosion would in no way what so ever pose a threat to the ecology of the Gulf, and furthermore absolutely no radiation at all would escape into the Gulf waters.

    Because of its very small size, several W54 Davy Crockett warheads could be lowered down a relief well pipe for the purpose of completely destroying BP's underground pipe line, for two miles under the sea floor. In addition, the nuke explosions would melt the underground natural rock, then re-arrange the rock, and then the rock would become a solid mass and the result would be to completely seal the underground area for a depth of two miles, thereby totally sealing the oil leak forever.

    Absolutely no radiation would escape. And the shock of the explosions would be so small that the effect would be limited to the immediate area, with no threat to other off-shore oil wells.

    June 13, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  9. Phil

    I agree with the cavity plus it might not work, opening a bigger spill.
    Then there is the waves it may produce, washing out coastlines.
    And who would want to eat radioactive seafood or swim in the water or use the contaminated beaches?

    No one!

    The tourist and fishing industries would be finished!

    June 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  10. Adrian Snare

    Having read Mr Armstrong's comment, I can but say that education reform/improvement is more urgent every day...
    Also, troubleshooting as well as English must be taught....
    The use of a high powered explosion has some metrit.....but not here.
    Did we wish to change the Golf of Mexico to the Golf of Oil ?

    June 12, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
  11. John Doe

    We should have gone nuke WEEKS AGO!!

    June 12, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  12. Also

    Doubtful since the well is drilled thousands of feet further into the seafloor. Also oil wells aren't really just huge hole under the ground. It is collections of oil in porous rock deep within the earth so its under pressure which when drilled causes it to rise up though the drill hole from the porous rock layer.

    June 12, 2010 at 4:07 am |
  13. Austin Grant

    I personally believed fighting oil with fire was a bad idea and fighting oil with a nuclear reaction will only be worse. I mean it could work as plan Z, but their only on plan G and their are many more solutions that don't require explosives.

    June 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  14. kw

    What if you drill drill a parallel hole and nuke it sideways with the intention of crushing the existing drill pipe and it does close it or closes and fractures it? What if you fracture all the surrounding rock such that you now have thousands of small leaking vents over an area of several square miles? How will you control that after the fact?.

    Right now, there is one pipe leaking. I'd say that concentrating on closing that pipe is the only way and BP will have to keep trying different things until successful.

    Relief wells are probably the best bet.

    June 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  15. Joan

    Jesus help us!

    June 11, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  16. Kris Holland

    I should add that at the very least, you leave absolutely no infrastructure to try anything else, and the only other option is to hope for the success of the relief wells sometime in August.

    June 11, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  17. Kris Holland

    Nuking the well is one of the most risky, and possibly most dangerous options of them all. We do not understand the geology of the ocean floor well enough, nor do we understand the mechanics of detonating a nuke at that depth. If the nuke doesn't do _exactly_ as planned, it could crack the sea floor, making this leak look a slow drip, with no way to stop it. Millions of gallons of oil? What do you think the disaster would look like with billions or trillions of gallons?

    There are other simpler ways to deal with this, that have a much higher probability of working. It's just that BP isn't listening... and our group had a proposal placed on the BP president's desk, so we know that for sure.

    June 11, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  18. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Exsploding a nuke with the wait and pressure of the ocean pushing down might cave in the oil cavity .

    June 11, 2010 at 8:42 am |