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Should the U.S. Navy blow up the Macondo oil well?

Posted Jul 03 2010 12:36am
In a recent New York Times op-ed piece entitled "Blow Up the Well to Save the Gulf," former nuclear submarine officer Christopher Brownfield draws our attention to what could be a better alternative for dealing with the BP oil spill. BP CEO Tony Hayward admitted to Congress that his company has no intention of plugging the ruptured Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico any longer. Instead, BP is going to take months to build a relief well that some experts predict may not even work. In light of BP and the Coast Guard's inability to even stem the tide of the oil leak, Brownfield makes a suggestion that gives the thinking human being pause. Why prevent the US Navy from stopping the leak?

Resource for this article: Should the U.S. Navy blow up the Macondo oil well by Personal Money Store

According to Brownfield we should ‘Blow up the well’

Now is not the time to hesitate, suggests Brownfield; we should blow up the well. Thousands of barrels of oil are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico each day, and BP and the Coast Guard lack the resources and expertise to deal with high-powered demolitions of the sort needed to deal with the Macondo oil well effectively. Billions of dollars have been thrown at the problem with little effect.Brownfield reports that BP and the Coast Guard would still have an important role to play, namely cleanup on the surface. But the U.S. Navy has resources like special submarines that could likely have obtained some real-time info on the well – in advance of the schedule BP chose to follow. Engineers from Naval Reactors – "the secretive program that is responsible for designing nuclear reactors for nuclear submarines," according to Brownfield – could have already dealt with how to blow up the well, if they'd been given leave to do so by President Obama.

Next Navy demolitions could commence
The oil well won’t just be blasted off by a torpedo. Parallel to the Macondo well would first need to be drilled a hole. The explosives would be detonated from a distance after being lowered into the hole. Tons of explosives that would end up creating a "pressure wave hundreds of thousands of pounds per square inch" strong would implode BP's big problem easily, sending so much rock into the well that the flow would be stopped like a giant foot stepping on a garden hose. Brownfield says that the "expansion and collapse of explosive gases inside the hole would act like a hydraulic jackhammer, further pulverizing the rock." Nuclear devices wouldn't even be necessary; they'd just be an overkill, in Brownfield's view, although Soviet Russia has used them successfully for this purpose before.

Scenario that’s best and worst case
At best the flow would be stopped and long-term cleanup could progress toward an endgame. The explosion might make a larger hole and increase the flow. Former Naval nuclear sub officer Brownfield believes, "It's virtually inconceivable that an explosive could blast a bigger hole than already exists and release even more oil," when the geological features of the ocean bed around the Macondo well are taken into consideration. Considering how much money might just be saved by abandoning ineffective capping techniques (not to mention stemming the tide so that damage to nature and the cost of long-term cleanup can be lessened a lot), it seems the course is clear for politicians with the foresight and courage to give the green light.

Additional information at these websites

New York Times
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