Casaubon's Book

Russian TV offers a potential solution to close up the oil leak in the Gulf – nuclear explosions. And no, Stephen Colbert isn’t going to pop out here – this is serious. Well, sorta.

As the reporter points out, the flora and fauna of the Gulf may not thank you. On the other hand, how often does one get to so perfectly set up the narrative of a 1950s bad sci fi film? I suspect the end result would be something like this:

i-25ab07baa1c19fb2addc486c58338f06-sea-monster-thumb-400x503-49443.jpg

(Image credit here)

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Dunc
    May 20, 2010

    When your great plan has it’s own entry on TV Tropes, it might be time to rethink…

    (Admittedly, this isn’t a proper Deus Ex Nukina, as they don’t need to deliver it by hand. Still, close enough…)

  2. #2 R. S. Buchanan
    May 20, 2010

    This really is their answer to every problem, isn’t it?

  3. #3 TJ
    May 20, 2010

    its a bit outlandish … but not entirely
    i have seen them (Russians that is) put out an on-land oil well fire with a bomb not nuclear but a bomb nonetheless
    and so that was something that came to my mind while listening to NPR bemoan the “they can’t fix this leak” – detonate a large enough charge to collapse the well.
    so if we were not in a hurry to bomb bunkers in Iran – one of those mega-super-monster “conventional” bombs could just do the trick

    my take is – the ONLY way they plug it is by establishing another well – otherwise they will not be allowed to drill there again, no let me rephrase – the bribes will be too expensive

    just my 2 cents
    TJ

  4. #4 Jim Thomerson
    May 20, 2010

    From what I saw on TV, the Russians have used nuclear explosions to shut down leaking wells on four occasions.

  5. #5 Chris Winter
    May 20, 2010

    TJ wrote: “have seen them (Russians that is) put out an on-land oil well fire with a bomb not nuclear but a bomb nonetheless.”

    Well, sure. Red Adair and his crew did the same thing. But that was conventional explosives (C4, IIRC), and on land.

  6. #6 Chris Winter
    May 20, 2010

    Sharon asked: “But what about the giant mutant crabs?”

    I think flame throwers would take care of them. Wasn’t that what they used in Attack of the Crab Monsters?

  7. #7 Adam Ek
    May 20, 2010

    Really bad idea. First of all we have several indicators that the area is rich with methane hydrates (aka methane clathrates). You REALLY don’t want to vaporize all of the methane hydrates even in a small area of the Gulf.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis

    ” The Day The Earth Nearly Died, BBC Horizon, 2002
    However there is stronger evidence that runaway methane clathrate breakdown may have caused drastic alteration of the ocean environment and the atmosphere of earth on a number of occasions in the past, over timescales of tens of thousands of years; most notably in connection with the Permian extinction event, when 96% of all marine species became extinct 251 million years ago.[5]”

  8. #8 Prometheus
    May 20, 2010

    Where the hell are we going to get enough cocktail sauce for that thing in Sharon’s post?

    If we make the giant shrimp lizards with nukes are they kosher or not?

  9. #9 Brad K.
    May 20, 2010

    I don’t think anyone thinks of a nuke as a good solution – merely the one that might work first.

    Heck, for all I know, Venezuela might have already contracted Iran to make three or for little “construction” devices. Wouldn’t that be a heck of a reputation-maker for Iran, using their nuclear program for peaceful benefits?

  10. #10 Stephen B.
    May 21, 2010

    Yes, bombs momentarily disorganize the flow of oil and gas so much that the fire(s) get snuffed out, but the oil flow then still has to be capped and shut off.

    Not to point out the obvious, but the well, 5000 feet down, isn’t on fire, it merely needs to be capped, and as I just said, the bombs snuff the fires out, in the air, out of the water.

    It seems to me that any kind of bomb would be a very bad idea. But…. If millions of bbls of oil all over the GOM is a bad idea, then I would think that the only way to make it worse would be to have millions of bbls of radioactive oil all over the GOM.

    If I ever rebelled against the idea of humans living on earth as being nothing more than billions of yeast in an over-sized Petri dish, I am now convinced otherwise.

  11. #11 Jason
    May 21, 2010

    Could you please credit the illustrator?

  12. #12 Alex Besogonov
    May 21, 2010

    “Yes, bombs momentarily disorganize the flow of oil and gas so much that the fire(s) get snuffed out, but the oil flow then still has to be capped and shut off.”

    Not exactly. Nuclear bombs disrupt the channel itself, stopping the leak completely.

    By now, environmental damage from a small clean nuclear blast is much less than the damage from the leak.

  13. #13 Stephen Beltramini
    May 21, 2010

    “Not exactly. Nuclear bombs disrupt the channel itself, stopping the leak completely.”

    How do we know this? Have we used nuclear weapons on any kind of well already?

  14. #14 Marina
    May 21, 2010

    Soviets used nuclear explosions on several wells during the period from 1965 to 1988 for various purposes. In case of accidental well leakages, they were gas on fire. Some explosions were unsuccessful, many still leak radioactive waste. Hardly a good solution.

  15. #15 Sharon Astyk
    May 21, 2010

    Oops, Jason, sorry I thought I had done so already. Fixed.

    Sharon

  16. #16 Sharon Astyk
    May 21, 2010

    If you like truly, truly awful puns, my ex, who is also a writer (and still a good friend) over at Wired Magazine’s _Geek Dad_ has an astonishingly horrible pun about the subject. You are warned.

    http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2010/05/nuke-the-entire-site-its-the-only-way-to-be-sure/

  17. #17 Susan
    May 21, 2010

    Honestly, I don’t see the nuke as a terrible idea. Obviously, it isn’t optimal, but it isn’t as bad as it seems. The problem is, we know exactly what the effects of radiation are. We can easily quantify their effect on animal and human DNA, we know how long it will take for any mutagenic effects to cause cancer.

    We don’t know what the biological effects (long term) of the oil spills will be, particularly if food becomes contaminated by illicit fishing, or the dispersants used get into the water supply in coastal areas. We have no idea what the genetic consequences of the chemicals we’re dumping into the gulf will be. So really, it’s measuring the consequences of a “known” with those of an unknown.

    The problem is that nuclear/radiation/etc. are scare words, precisely because we know that they cause cancer (and how it occurs). It’s probably different plugging oil leaks in the Arctic, but in the Gulf it’s politically infeasible.

  18. #18 darwinsdog
    May 21, 2010

    Honestly, I don’t see the nuke as a terrible idea.

    Me either. I say just nuke the rock overlying the petroleum reservoir and drain it quick. Get it over with. In fact, we should do this to the remaining petroleum reservoirs worldwide. Go cold turkey.

  19. #19 Nomen Nescio
    May 21, 2010

    We don’t know what the biological effects (long term) of the oil spills will be, particularly if food becomes contaminated by illicit fishing, or the dispersants used get into the water supply in coastal areas. We have no idea what the genetic consequences of the chemicals we’re dumping into the gulf will be.

    adding to the uncertainties, we also don’t know if a nuke at the bottom of the ocean will actually work to collapse the borehole and stop the leakage. wouldn’t it be just ducky if the thing wiped clean any and all remaining oil-well head installations down there and left the hole open, sitting in the middle of a smooth plain of now-radioactive seafloor?

    (for that matter… have we ever sank anything like a nuclear device to five thousand feet of water depth and had it work before? i can imagine nukes are shielded well enough to survive those conditions, they’re supposed to get through a nuclear war after all. but can they still function under sustained pressure like that? i doubt it’s been tested — anybody know more about the old nuclear weapons testing programs than i do?)

  20. #20 darwinsdog
    May 21, 2010

    …have we ever sank anything like a nuclear device to five thousand feet of water depth…

    “At least three dozen serious accidents and incidents involving atomic or nuclear weapons have occurred since 1950. Many of these cases cost the lives of military personnel, led to the release of radioactive material, or resulted in the loss of the weapon itself. Most of these weapons fell into the ocean where the nuclear material could not be recovered given the limits of current technology. It is estimated that over 50 nuclear warheads have been lost in the world’s oceans following aircraft or naval accidents. Another 26 nuclear reactors from ships and submarines have also been lost or deliberately dumped at sea.”

    http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/weapons/q0268.shtml

    And we think we can drill the ocean floor safely when we can’t even be responsible with nuclear weapons?

  21. #21 Alex Besogonov
    May 21, 2010

    “Some explosions were unsuccessful, many still leak radioactive waste. Hardly a good solution.”

    Not exactly. One nuclear blast failed to seal the leak completely. There were no significant radiation leaks in all cases when nuclear devices were used to seal wells.

    Most people overestimate the amount of released radioactive material after a nuclear explosion.

  22. #22 Holly
    May 24, 2010

    I was trying to find any information on the depths of the previous leaks that were nuked? I understand there was an 80% success rate, nothing that stated subsequent radioactivity, and nothing that stated how populous the area is or the depth at which the nukes exploded successfully. Can anyone provide better scientific data?

  23. #23 scidog
    May 25, 2010

    lots of high tech ideas on this but why don’t they just drop a huge block of cement on the pipe and crush it closed?..

  24. #24 Dan Kolis
    May 25, 2010

    As I posted a few weeks ago, reflowing a selected alloy like woods metal which is Neutron thirsty means the current leak could be reflowed sealed with ease. The Russian big blast is a little problematic in that it’s hard to repeat if it liberates, not contains the spill, and other factors, though of course they deserve credit for thinking clearly and using a mundane technology well instead of having some strange emotional issues about it. I suppose the US is still reacting to annihilating > 50K civilians for the hell of it with these things. No reason the indefinite animal life should encounter extinction because of that.

    Fill PVC collets with Cadmium-10 rich Woods metal around the leaks in solid form as convenient sized loose packed ingots. 1 m diam, 35 m high. Sacrifice a ROV with a physics package in it, carefully sized at the low end of kT. After the ablation, when the frit matures to a solid, it won’t leak. Inertial confinement.

    It’s easy to test in a university research reactor, of which there are thousands in the world,

    Experts busy dreaming of the joy of converting Arabs into vapors 24/7 have the software to model this. Make them do something useful ones in their otherwise counterproductive lives and add the details. Or. Duh! ask the Russians to do it and send the bill to guess who.

    This is converting from matter to energy about the amount of mass that costitutes a few crumbs of yesterdays lunch in your pocket, not annihilate an island.

    The only reason to use a nuclear event is to get an impulse function to melt a solid uniformly, so as it solidifies it uniform enough to not leave channels; (rather they close symettrically). a RF induction heater is a possibility, but it would be big compared to one small physics pkg, and hard to power. 2 MW via 600 V over 2 miles of water.

    BTW its an explosion possibly, or better yet an ablative event if the package can be modified slightly. it is not a bomb. Its annoying to hear “bomb, bomb” for a controlled explosion.

  25. #25 dan Kolis
    May 26, 2010

    It occurred to me the people involved are even more inept then I visualized initially. The only possible issues with a covering bell jar is positioning it, dropping it and fastening a pipe to it.

    They achieved these hard goals, effectively solving the problem. The hydra(i)te salts are a confounding detail.

    When I saw it before they threw it in, I laughed out loud… Where are the lifting lugs, soft lead anodes for welding, etc? Radium “glow in the dark” registration marks, all the obvious things a non-moron would put on it. Obviously, cubbyholoes welded at random spots at 90 degree angles should be on it, parellel to the horizon, vertical and at the cant angle of the surface plus and minus so the ROV’s can push off something.

    And lifting lugs at all the C.G. points. I mean, you have to remember somebody decision making there has no experience whatsoever with machinery. It’s an embarrasment to look at it.

    But, no, *somebody* is even dumber then that. I thought it should have covers to open for inspection, or more like hundreds of ½ inch dim holes, and slots. It didn’t occur to me it would plug up, the aperatures I visualized were smallish.

    But after it achieves all the hard goals, except one… they give up. Obviously, when the first was made, non morons would make extra’s in series, assuming it’s possibly/likely an iterated process.

    But the answer is fairly obvious. Torch orifices in the upper surface exceeding by 8:1 or greater the area of the pipe. Leave a loose fitting U Bracket captivated to be turned in each clearance by ROV. Each bracket turns the corner on the PSI force, so its force to turn is friction * area * [Delta_PSI] not the PSI to PSIG. As flow is established, each can be welded shut form the outside. Each will cant from the inter surface delta PSI anyway, but they might wiggle form vibration, etc intermettalic corrosion so just weld or braise them in place after the flow is understood enough to mitigate a second pass of salt formation. Turning off the pumps, etc is a *bad* idea once it works.

    Make then over a decade of area sizes with the same universal fitting for the ROV to position. For the larger ones, on the OUTSIDE of the housing, place a rack and pinion to close each with mech. Advantage of rotary to linear motion. Better really to make most of them small enough to not need this. Put a dab of Epoxy just enough they don’t move until the ROV grabs the part and shoves it.

    The box over the thing wasn’t my first choice, but if you assume you will make it work, there is a guideline for these problems that is usually true. Don’t try to do it with a stupid guy calling the shots who can’t think about machinery.

  26. #26 Dan Kolis
    May 26, 2010

    There next pass of mud and useless random ejecta of blobs of rubber and and trash to plug the holes might work I suppose.

    I think to make the story compelling they should saw the head off the moron CEO and and put it in with the other unwanted dense matter. Its doing a lot of harm in its present configuration.

  27. #27 Electronic Cigarettes
    March 28, 2011

    Russian TV offers a potential solution to close up the oil leak in the Gulf – nuclear explosions. And no, Stephen Colbert isn’t going to pop out here – this is serious. Well, sorta.

  28. #28 mantolama
    July 5, 2011

    Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.