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Obama Sends Nuclear Experts To Tackle BP Oil Spill 389

Posted by kdawson
from the step-aside dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The US has sent a team of nuclear physicists to help BP plug the 'catastrophic' flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico from its leaking Deepwater Horizon well, as the Obama administration becomes frustrated with the oil giant's inability to control the situation. The five-man team — which includes a man who helped develop the first hydrogen bomb in the 1950s — is the brainchild of Steven Chu, President Obama's Energy Secretary." Let's hope this doesn't mean they actually try the nuclear option. In other offshore drilling news, reader mygoditsfullofdoom informs us that a Venezuelan gas rig has sunk in the Caribbean (with no loss of life). This one is being laid at the feet of Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA, which hasn't exactly been regarded as uber-competent "after President Hugo Chavez fired half the company's managers and senior engineers following a 2002 strike."
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Obama Sends Nuclear Experts To Tackle BP Oil Spill

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  • Why the bias? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pongo000 (97357) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @05:55PM (#32222338)

    Let's hope this doesn't mean they actually try the nuclear option.

    Thanks for the environmental message. A little late for that, don't you think?

    At this point, a small controlled nuclear explosion to simply fuse the entire mass together into a big piece of molten glass and metal might be what's needed.

  • by Platinum Dragon (34829) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @05:57PM (#32222352) Journal

    When Reagan broke the ATC union, he was standing up to the Big Bad Union. When Chavez did it, he was being an autocratic commie.

  • Re:"Let's hope" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eastlight_jim (1070084) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @05:58PM (#32222364)

    I've always liked the phrase "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is". I think it's rather pertinent here!

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:01PM (#32222386) Journal

    Just a while ago we were warned by a computer scientist (whatever that is) that this huge oil reservoir is under so much pressure that if 3 miles or rock spits, it could blow up the planet and end life as we know it...

    Presumably kdawson read this slashdot story... oh wait... editor reading story... I see where I went wrong there.

  • why not nuclear? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jipn4 (1367823) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:06PM (#32222428)

    I'm sorry, but I don't see a big problem with the "nuclear option". Underground nuclear explosions have been used quite a bit and they are not a significant radiation hazard. The geology of the area is presumably also fairly well understood. I wonder, though, if they even need a nuclear bomb. The drill hole is tiny compared to the 3 miles of rock it goes through. I would think even a conventional explosive placed some distance to the drill hole about a mile or so down into the rock might be enough to shift the rock and seal it off with little risk of making things worse. In any case, it's good to see people besides BP employees are on the case.

  • by maxume (22995) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:13PM (#32222470)

    No.

    There are dozens or hundreds of industry people working to solve/address the problem (at a minimum, they are working on the relief well, which has a very high probability of success, it will just take 2 months to complete).

    These 5 people had a meeting where they were briefed in on the specifics of the problem.

    Corruption and lack of imagination are not the problem, the sheer difficulty of the situation they have put themselves into is the problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:22PM (#32222526)

    That is what everybody did when Germany started picking on Poland.

    Worked nicely, didn't it?

  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:25PM (#32222542) Journal

    Pop quiz:

    Britain declared war on Germany ___ days after the German invasion of Poland.

    Venezuela has invaded ___ allies of the US.

  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:33PM (#32222584) Journal

    Jokes would happen during and after recent retirement, being 2001 (remembering that we're talking space science timescales, not Internet meme timescales). By the third week of 2003, 40% of US space shuttles had been destroyed, even while old timers were still tediously proclaiming US victory over the evil Reds.

    SFC would have had a stronger argument if he'd mentioned technical and bureaucratic US space programme fuck-ups in general, rather than just the shuttle... no-one said it was easy, but you don't deserve any slack when you start claiming that you're better than everyone else.

  • by Incubusxp (1107147) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:38PM (#32222616) Homepage
    Fuck You!! What do you know of whats happening in my country? Venezuela is becoming FREE. Let us be. We dont want War, we just want to develop our country and be happy. With Chavez we will have that.
  • by Spewns (1599743) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:42PM (#32222636)

    When Reagan broke the ATC union, he was standing up to the Big Bad Union. When Chavez did it, he was being an autocratic commie.

    Kind of like when the US bombs someone, they're being heroes, but if anyone tries to bomb the US, they're being terrorists.

  • Re:"Let's hope" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bug1 (96678) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:45PM (#32222660)

    +whatcouldpossiblygowrong

    Using nukes will make it a small problem for a long term rather than a big problem for a small time.

    Sounds like something are shortsighted business and political leaders would be interested in.

    Oh yea, and +whatcouldpossiblygowrong

  • by Platinum Dragon (34829) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:45PM (#32222662) Journal

    I don't even think there's a need for hyperbole on this (my, uh, previous post aside). Shuttle and Mir both worked, both developed problems and dangerous conditions developed over time. The only difference is which side of which border they were developed on, and national origin is a piss-poor standard upon which to judge the overall success of a project or decision, or even the ethics underlying such.

    Canning the upper echelon of staff for political reasons rarely, if ever, has good results (I suspect PDVSA had some difficulty replacing that many people with that much experience). Neither does going cheap on the failsafe gear and deciding regulations don't really need to be followed that closely when dealing with complicated, ecologically-significant projects.

  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp.Gmail@com> on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:45PM (#32222666) Homepage Journal

    When Reagan broke the ATC union, he was standing up to the Big Bad Union. When Chavez did it, he was being an autocratic commie.

    When Reagan broke PATCO, A) he had overwhelming support from the public, which was tired of constant strikes and exhorbitant demands, and B) Reagan made sure experienced AC's were in place so safety was maintained.

    Chavez did it because they dared oppose him, and like a Stalinist goon, he chased off all the smart and talented people without replacing them with other smart and talented people. Comparing the two situations is either blind union fanboyism, or silly cheerleading for Chavez.

  • risk and reward (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:47PM (#32222674) Homepage Journal
    My main problem with this is that BP and Transocean seem to be more conerned about limiting liability than solving the problem. BP doesn't seem to be interested in releasing video so the experts don't know if they are dealing with a situation that is 5 or 5 million barrels a day. For planning such a number is important. Transocean is in court trying to claim it is a cruise line so that it can cap liability to a few tens of million. Of course most of BP actions are intended to limit charges of negligence so they can limit liability to $75 million. Total exposure for both companies if all the effort succeed is $100 million.

    So the oil still flows, and the government has to step in for what should be a problem solved by the private sector that has claimed they are more than capable of regulating themselves. The private businesses that are destroyed from Louisiana to Florida due to BP negligence will be limited to fighting over the $75 million dollars, hardly enough when all your memorial weekeend guests have cancelled.

    Here is the thing. I am one of the few people not in the oil industry that will actively defend the high price of gasoline, and even say it go higher. Oil production is risky, and the rewards should be commiserate. What I find maddening is that when the risk does manifest, the executives claim they have no money to pay for liabiliy. BP has made a profit of 5.5 billion this quarter. It is only natural that all that is forfiet to pay for the accident. That is how the free market works. As long as one is efficient and keeps one nose clean, one can make a huge profit. On big mistake an put one out of business. We should not be making laws to protect incompetent firms, any more than we should have laws to protect incompetent employees.

    And for those who think there is a greater competency issue in the Venezuela explosion, remember that BP is responsible for the death of 11 good people, while no one died in the Venezuela situation. If you think that killing people is competent, something is wrong.

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:53PM (#32222702)

    There's at least three "The Problem"s here.

    1. Stopping the existing leak.
    2. Cleanup and damage mitigation.
    3. Figuring out what is and isn't reasonable to attempt for oil drilling in the future.

    Maybe there's a meta-problem, which is that people will eventually do one, but then act like two is solved as well, and not even bother to address three.

  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:53PM (#32222706) Journal

    Contrast this with South America, which is populated by 3 types of people: un-educated peasants, druglords, and warlords.

    Oh, at least 4! You're forgetting the resident agents of the appropriate US government department who've spent the past 50+ years trying to keep them that way.

  • by Spewns (1599743) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @06:55PM (#32222720)

    If we allow Venezuela

    Fuck off

    I'd like to apologize on behalf of the people in my country, the United States. We're extremely paranoid, uneducated, and religious, and our entire every day consists of being endlessly pummeled by sophisticated government and corporate public relations/propaganda, making us impressively easy to manipulate. We do indeed have the mindset that we (as a country) have an inherent, God-given right to allow or disallow Venezuela (or anyone else in the world, for that matter) to do anything, and there's no real sign that we'll cease acting on that mindset anytime soon.

  • by Antiocheian (859870) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @07:13PM (#32222846) Journal

    There is no shortage of examples of times when outside intervention is not only warranted, but should actually be mandatory.

    Yes, that's why I told you to fuck off. The Iraq civil war [foreignaffairs.com] might have been prevented if bullies like you were convinced to fuck off instead of invading it for Windmills of Mass Destruction.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2010 @07:18PM (#32222884)

    I see your crushing, err, Google search and raise you an article by Krugman on Reagan's legacy [nytimes.com].

    I can use something broad like Google search because those phrases returns lots of documentation for the economic failures Chavez and engendered in Venezeula. You, on the other hand, are forced to cherry-pick ONE result from a biased commentator.

    And even though YOU had to cherry-pick yours lamer-than-a-Thalidomide-dachshund "refutation", you didn't/coudn't refute the fact that Chavez is running Venezeula into the ground.

    And would that be Enron-advisor Paul Krugman [google.com]?

    Note AGAIN that I'm not cherry-picking results.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @07:23PM (#32222916) Journal
    Wow, when it comes to economics, Reagan may have been wrong, but Chavez is in another world of wrongness. Reagan tried some experiments that turned out bad, Chavez is hitting his head against the wall that says "don't do this!"

    The clearest, most obvious contrast is with inflation. Reagan knew it was a bad thing, and kept it low. Chavez embraces it (prints more money and then threatens anyone who dares to raise prices). This is such an obvious mistake that even high school students understand it. At least Reagan got that right.
  • Re:Why the bias? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ericrost (1049312) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @07:36PM (#32222998) Homepage Journal

    http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/05/11/1440206/Oil-Leak-Could-Be-Stopped-With-a-Nuke?from=rss [slashdot.org]

    Actually, there is, the soviets have used this method five times. Next objection?

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:18PM (#32223194) Homepage Journal

    Reagan tried some experiments that turned out bad

    That's the biggest understatement since Noah said "It looks like rain." And I'd say that those weren't experiments at all, but a concerted effort to sink the entire safety net, not to mention turn around the increasing wealth of the working and middle class that had been going on since WWII. Not to mention arming Iran.

    "End the Cold War" you say? No, he just transformed it into the Forever War on Terror.

    We're just now starting to see the some of the full effects of the virus Reagan injected into our system. May he burn in Hell.

  • by SharpFang (651121) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:20PM (#32223204) Homepage Journal

    from that everything ever is physics.

  • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:42PM (#32223318)
    This should not be modded flamebait, kdawson is pushing his opinion into the main post rather than in a comment like everyone else. Clearly, he's a biased editor, this isn't a discussion, it's a fact. You can not, BY DEFINITION, put your opinion into an article and NOT be biased.

    Anyway, why shouldn't we use the nuclear option to control the oil leak? This is an ENGINEERING problem, not a fucking moral one. Let the engineers decide of a nuclear bomb would best control the oil leak.

    Nonsense statements like "nuclear weapons are always bad" don't help anyone. According to the previous article on slashdot the Russians have used nuclear blasts five times to control things like this with an 80% success rate. Obviously, there are risks and problems, just like there are with every option. If the ENGINEERS (not idiots that think "nuclear ANYTHING is ALWAYS bad") decide that a nuclear blast is the best option then we should go for it.

    Tell me, kdawson, where did you get your degree in nuclear engineering? You don't have one? Well then how about your degree in environmental engineering? No? Then how can you say that the nuclear option is a bad idea before trained scientists that actually know what they're doing have even evaluated the situation?
  • by Golias (176380) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:58PM (#32223404)

    When it comes to the two-term administrations of Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton, the first question one must ask any critic is, "what didn't you like, the peace or the prosperity?"

  • by InfoJunkie777 (1435969) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @09:13PM (#32223490)
    God bless the USDIA and their evil overlords the CIA plus the DEA who keeps the warlords in business.
  • by Platinum Dragon (34829) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @09:20PM (#32223564) Journal

    I'm sure Reagan would have tolerated PATCO and airport managers halting service to demand early elections seven months after a coup attempt.

  • by pongo000 (97357) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @09:30PM (#32223618)

    Fishing and tourism might suffer for a while, but that's not a big deal.

    Unless your family's livelihood depends upon fishing and tourism. Then it's a very big deal.

  • Re:Why the bias? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2010 @10:05PM (#32223852)

    20% failure rate. next question?

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @11:51PM (#32224496)

    Obama should just issue an executive order dissolving the corporate charters of Transocean and the US subsidiaries of BP using his authority to protect our territorial waters.

  • by wkcole (644783) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @12:45AM (#32224816)

    I'm sorry, but I don't see a big problem with the "nuclear option".

    Look more closely...

    Underground nuclear explosions have been used quite a bit and they are not a significant radiation hazard. The geology of the area is presumably also fairly well understood.

    Understanding the geology (which is put in question by the accident) is necessary but not sufficient. Sites for underground nuclear tests are not simply understood, they are selected and prepared. They are not selected under a mile of water, and test chambers are not prepared by connecting them to large high-pressure oil and gas deposits.

    I wonder, though, if they even need a nuclear bomb. The drill hole is tiny compared to the 3 miles of rock it goes through. I would think even a conventional explosive placed some distance to the drill hole about a mile or so down into the rock might be enough to shift the rock and seal it off with little risk of making things worse.

    The risk of making things worse is quite real. The root cause of the accident according to some reports was the destabilization of an unrecognized clathrate layer, and setting off a large explosion in that sort of formation would be a crapshoot. Even if the clathrate is a small localized issue, the concept of trying to plug the hole by shattering the cap layer around it carries the risk of trading one pipe of known characteristics in a known location for a giant sieve leaking more gas and oil from a myriad of unknown random seep points.

    There isn't much relevant history to look at for troubleshooting accidents like this one but in general, throwing high-energy chaos at a piece of complex engineering gone wrong is a tactical class that has a vanishingly small success rate. .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 16, 2010 @01:25AM (#32225048)

    Nagasaki. Hiroshima.

    You should try to recall a little harder.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:31AM (#32226116)
    "Time for ocean to recover from leak: 100-200 years.

    Half life of Plutonium-239: 24,000 years."

    Making up numbers: priceless.

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