Should We Nuke the Oil Leak?

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The idea of detonating a nuclear bomb to cease the oil spill is "a little less crazy than it sounds," argues Daniel Foster in a Wednesday piece for National Review. Nothing else seems to be working, and the so-called "nuclear option" has a decent track record: the Soviets managed to seal off leaks in this fashion five times.

Foster thinks this path is worth considering:

Before the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963, the United States successfully detonated nuclear devices both on land and under water, and two potential delivery paths for a nuke are already in place in the form of the partially completed relief wells. Assuming the bomb could be delivered close enough to the drill channel, the yield required would be relatively small. Moreover, well-established formulae establish the burial-depth-to-yield ratios that make it possible to trap virtually all of the radioactive fallout within the sub-oceanic bedrock.

That's the good news. The bad news, "of course," he admits, is that there's a possibility of radioactive gases leaking from the ocean floor afterwards. "But it seems a reasonable conjecture that the dissipation of a limited amount of radioactive material across the vast Gulf is preferable to the blanketing of thousands of miles of American coastline in ribbons of tar."

Foster notes that Obama has already sent a team of nuclear physicists to the Gulf, and that it includes "82-year-old Richard Garwin, who designed the first hydrogen bomb." Could nuking be a serious option?

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