June 3 (Reuters) – The official in charge of managing the U.S. response to the oil leak disaster in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday downplayed the possibility of using a nuclear or other explosive device to try to seal off the well.
“I think that’s really on the peripheral of things we ought to be talking about right now,” Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said when asked about suggestions that a nuclear explosion be used to seal off the leak.
“It hasn’t been seriously briefed to me,” Allen told ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. “I think you’d have to run out of a lot of things before you’d consider something like that.”
Asked about the possibility of using other explosive devices to try to seal the well, Allen said a blast could make things even worse by exposing oil-bearing rock formations directly to the sea bed.
“We don’t know the condition of the well bore, what happened before and after the explosion,” he said.
He told ABC the failure of the top kill procedure to seal the well by pumping mud into the well bore indicated “there actually could be something wrong with the well casing and there could be open communication in the strata or the rock formations below the sea floor.”
“I don’t think we want to take a chance of somehow disturbing that where the oil would have direct access to the sea floor. To my mind that would be a pretty serious risk,” Allen said.
His comments came after The New York Times reported on Thursday that the U.S. government was not considering using a nuclear device despite reports that some experts and armchair engineers were suggesting it.
The Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear devices several decades ago to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, the Times said.
But it quoted a U.S. Energy Department spokeswoman as saying neither Energy Secretary Steven Chu nor anyone else was contemplating a nuclear blast to try to halt the leak spewing hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into the gulf.
“It’s crazy,” the Times quoted one senior official as saying of the nuclear idea. (Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Doina Chiacu)