Talk about a dire situation. Right around the time last weekend that a four-story metal box deployed by BP to slow the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf was being deemed a failure – clogged by ice crystals – the government started considering a whole new slew of alternatives. One apocalyptic workaround came a few days earlier straight from the Russian press, in the revelation that on at least five different occasions, Russia used controlled nuclear explosions to stem deep-sea oil leaks. The very first blast took place in September of 1966, when a bomb with 1.5 times the power of the device that fell on Hiroshima was let loose at an ocean depth of 1.5 km.
Now obviously any such blasts would contradict the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits underwater nuclear detonations, but given that some scientists are saying it will take several weeks – if not longer – for a relief well to be dug, and who knows how much longer to stem the outflow from the first well, it’s worth asking the question: What is worse, oil in the water and on the beaches, or nuclear material on the ocean floor?
The current projections are that this spill will exceed the Exxon Valdez catastrophe, in sheer quantity of oil released, by next month. But the Russian headlines pose an interesting alternative: What if one nuclear blast could end this all next week?
In a bleak situation with no good options, where would nuking the oil well fall in the spectrum of bad outcomes?