While the Gulf oil spill spills on, BP and the nation look for ways to make it stop. While the problem has two prongs-stopping the leak at the source and remediation of oil already spilled-the latter becomes tractable if the former succeeds.
An option that comes to mind is the unspeakable one: to use nuclear energy to stop the leak.
The Russians have used nuclear to stop terrestrial oil well fires at least four times. The YouTube video shows just how it’s done. Purported success occurred in three of four attempts. No radiation was detected afterwards at the sites-again, purportedly-as the nuclear blast occurred far under the ground.
It seems to me, with the little information available on the Russian solution, that the method has merit and ought to be looked into hard by the experts. Putting aside for a moment the associated risks–and there are plenty–a prospect that worked in the past should be the starting point of renewed inquiry.
I’m not confident that that will happen, but in the desperate situation at hand, people are talking about the nuclear option. Indeed, it’s an idea that tolls a death knell before being born. I’m afraid to say, but a scientific investigation regarding doability will be squelched by environmentalists saving the planet from ourselves, by the ‘greens’ saving the planet for all non-human species, and by us, whose voices raised in objection will decide by ill-informed consensus that doing nothing is better than anything. After all, unless you’re BP, live in Louisiana, fish for a living, or are the President, it’s not your problem.
I’m not in favor of nuclear solutions to any problem, be it the production of energy, killing people in wars, or rolling myself into the claustrophobic chamber of an MRI machine (which is medical terminology for a nuclear magnetic resonance machine). But for those looking beyond fears of the dredded word, one finds benefits to the application of nuclear approaches. In the three examples above, nuclear approaches yield 1.) extraordinary amounts of energy, 2.) the cessation of armed conflict, saving hundreds of thousands of future lives on both sides, and 3.) non-invasive discovery of abnormal or diseased human tissue.
As they say in the field of innovation and creativity, a far-out idea has built-in enemies. They include those who reject the idea out of hand, those who believe risk is too high, those who think the idea costs too much, those who were successful in the past doing things the old way.
Such far-out ideas, however, have friends in those who think, investigate, research, and develop the idea for its inherent benefits. Scientists and engineers love the challenge of getting around the barriers to problems and reducing associated risk. When put on the problem and left to their own inquiry and scientific curiosity, they find workable solutions to intractable situations and new inventions for the benefit of humanity.
I say, somebody please put the nuclear expertise of our great nation to work to resolve the glitches inherent in a nuclear approach to the Gulf oil spill. Let’s require the solution to have acceptable levels of risk to people, our environment, and the earth. Let’s see what they come up with. And for goodness sake, let’s stop whining, stop requiring a perfect solution, put all our brains and brawn together, and ‘plug the damn hole.’
Sources: embedded in the text.