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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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25 Responses

  1. Avatar Zach says:

    I was wondering just that a couple weeks ago. Apparently, Russia successfully employed nuclear weapons to stop similar deep sea leaks on several occasions – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/20100513/ts_ynews/ynews_ts2052

    Here are the only compelling reasons I’ve heard not to try this:
    1. It could open up additional fissures near the surface; not increasing flow necessarily, but making more holes to cap if it fails
    2. At present, the flow isn’t near its maximum rate because the holes are occluded to some extent; a failed explosion could clear the path and maximize the rate of flow
    3. Apparently the sea floor in the Gulf is basically mud and not rock, so things that might’ve worked elsewhere won’t work in the Gulf.

    Whenever you bring this up, people dismiss it as absurd. Yet, dropping a giant dome on top of a leaking pipe is totally reasonable?Report

    • Avatar Zach says:

      @Zach, Also, I don’t think it’s possible to get into the shaft at this moment; once they have that sort of access, there are various plans to shoot things into the well and hope it plugs the leak. I think a quick explosive fix would need to be a fairly large bomb (might as well be nuclear) that would probably fuse the sand/rock beneath it. Is this what happens at ground zero for nuclear detonations? I have no clue.Report

    • Avatar Zach says:

      @Zach, Also, I don’t know how well it could penetrate a mile of water, but it’s probably worth a shot to mount this on a ship and aim it at the leak -http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/abl/index.htmlReport

  2. Dumb question: Isn’t the oil and methane down there sort of, y’know, combustible?Report

    • Avatar North says:

      @Mike at The Big Stick, Yes, sortof, but combustion needs oxygen and that’s not something they have in ample supply down there. For similar reasons I’m skeptical that normal chemical explosives would even work at those depths and pressures. Explosives also need air to work don’t they?

      I mean their dome failed because the cold and pressure down there is so great that the methane gas froze into crystals on the underside of the dome. Consider that for a moment; methane gas not just liquified but frozen solid.Report

    • Avatar Zach says:

      @Mike at The Big Stick, the oil down there is also something like 6 miles below the sea floor. This was/is an epically deep well. Ditto on combustion, also.

      As far as propagated damage goes, I suspect/hope that wells nearby could (1) be shut down ahead of time and (2) are immune to fairly severe vibrations since there are occasionally some significant earthquakes in the Gulf.Report

      • Avatar Zach says:

        @Zach, and, I would hope we have a plethora of data on the propagation of energy from underwater explosions. Did we ever do a nuke test at this sort of depth, though? Seems like it’d be a useful weapon to destroy undersea cabling and whatnot.Report

  3. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    I am no engineer, but I believe there are other wells close by–so propagating a massive shock wave through the water might damage them or even cause additional spills.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I also wonder whether all the public figures who insist they believe in the efficacy of prayer are praying for the leak to seal itself. And if not, why not?Report

  5. Avatar And says:

    I thought that, too, when word got out that the spill was actually of epic proportions. I think that there may a chance that explosives would make the situation even worse, which could be why it’s not being done.Report

    • Avatar Zach says:

      @And, You’ve got to way the chance of that happening with the certainty of waiting months for a relief well to be drilled. If there were a 90% chance of a nuke stopping this problem two weeks ago, a 5% chance of it doing nothing, and a 5% chance of it increasing the flow rate, would it be worth the risk? It’s a reasonable question to ask, but no one’s even discussing the possibility.Report

      • @Zach, I think the concern is all that radioactivity washing up on the Gulf Coast just as vacation season starts.Report

        • Avatar Zach says:

          @Mike at The Big Stick, That’s entirely a psychological concern. Check out the wigwam data; a blast that’s bigger than what this would require at a lesser depth resulted in minimal surface radiation. A 10 or 20 kt nuke could do the trick and not be noticed at all on shore. This is assuming, obviously, that the whole idea is a good one to start with insofar as it actually working goes.

          I agree that it’s a nonstarter, but that’s because of a public ignorance that I really don’t understand. The imagined danger of a deep sea nuke somehow outweighs the real, present danger from a huge oil spill?Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            @Zach,
            I think the point is more they’re not entirely sure what the probabilities are, and the USN hasn’t had a tactical nuke delivery system for their subs for some time so whether there is the operational expertise to even use a nuke in the manner described is kinda iffy.

            I’d imagine, too that BP still has delusions that it can recoup this well and get it working again, which probably also dictate what actions are being taken.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        @Zach, you’re aware of the potential solutions the actors involved are and are not discussing? You must have some serious connections.Report