Monday, June 28, 2010

Don't the fish a mile down glow anyway?

During the bad ol' days of the Cold War, there were those who opined that in the event of a dust-up between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the first place any nuclear weapons would be used would be at sea, under the theory that you could use a nuclear torpedo to take out a Soviet Typhoon-class SSBN or an American bird farm and still have a situation that could be negotiated back down to status quo ante, unlike if you had converted, say, Frankfurt or Rostock to glowing charcoal.

In shorthand, the concept of the lesser psychological impact of a nuke at sea was explained as "You can't leave a crater in the water."

As it turns out, some people can get plenty worked up over the idea of a crater in the water.

13 comments:

Bram said...

There would be a lot of liberal bed-wetting, but sealing the well with a nuke is probably the best way to go. Our tac nukes are very "clean" in terms of radiation. An explosion under the seabed would not realease any significant radiation.

Tam said...

I'd be worried about contaminating the oil field, but I'm not really qualified to comment on whether that would happen or not.

reflectoscope said...

Question is, how powerful a device would you need? 1 kT, 1 MT? It would need to be a big pure fission device to release any meaningful contamination, and considering that the real damage is already done it is pretty much irrelevant.

Jim

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"I'd be worried about contaminating the oil field, but I'm not really qualified to comment on whether that would happen or not."

That was one of my first thoughts, too, and with the same caveat. I do wonder if that would be a lesser evil, though. I also wonder if it would be an unrecoverable problem if it is contaminated, or if the oil could be decontaminated later.

I did laugh at the kid "studying civilian nuclear power" calling the idea laughable. I mean, what part of nuclear power plant engineering makes him qualified to comment on the effects of a nuclear bomb. There's just a tiny little bit of difference between the two, after all.~

Of course, they strangely don't mention what actual degree he has/is studying. I'd bet it's something like "environmental science" and he's focusing on the environmental impacts of nuclear power plants, with the usual "nuclear = bad" angle.

Jack said...

This has been discussed at www.theoildrum.com and dismissed by the real oilmen. Three main reasons. If it doesn't work,you've got a bigger problem that a relief well can't fix. The nuke has to be near the bottom, so drilling it in won't be any faster. The USA doesn't have any 8" nukes now, and destroyed the plans for making them.

www.theoildrum.com was invaded by armchair experts and wannabe congresscritters, so it's post rate hit 1000/day at times, but you can search back through the open threads.

Kristopher said...

Can't leave a crater ... but in Civ II, you could use a settler on a boat to make a fortification.

( "Just bulldoze that water into berms until I can park a battleship hull down here, thanky ..." )

RWC said...

This might be a solution to the problem...so it won't get one step by this administration.

Stranger said...

The concern is not about radioactivity, but that the well casing is ruptured a thousand or two feet below the sea floor.

During the attempt to stop the casing with drilling mud, it appeared that mud was welling up BESIDE the casing. Going down the casing, and coming back up the outside.

So sealing the casing would put 100 Klb square inch MOL on the sealed casing and it would come jetting out of the hole. And then there really would be no stopping the flow of crude.

It would be better to allow the skimmer ships, particularly the "A-Whale," to do their job while the relief wells are drilled.

Stranger

Bubblehead Les. said...

Easy way to find out: Go to the Persian Gulf, find an Iranian oil rig, attach bomb, wait for Earth-Shattering KaBoom, take readings. If it works, try it in the Gulf of Mexico. If it doesn't, find another Iranian oil rig, try a different size bomb....

reflectoscope said...

Les: Awesome.

Jim

Bubblehead Les. said...

Actually, reflectoscope, I got it from the Master, Robert A. Heinlein. From Time Enough for Love and/or The Notebooks of Lazarus Long; "Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it". (Earth-Shattering Kaboom courtesy of Warner Bros., Iranian Oil rig courtesy of the Assaholla Khomeni (MAY HE ROT IN HELL) and his scum-sucking, goat-kissing successors).

Dixie said...

Les:

You have successfully blended Heinlein and Warner Bros. You are, indeed, the man.


The hippies had a "Hands Across the Sand" demonstration at my local bikini beach this weekend. Is it just me, or is hippie attention-whoring getting worse?

markm said...

The nuke plan I saw called for placing the nuke 1800 feet below the sea floor. That's the same depth as the relief wells, so it doesn't get the leak stopped any faster... That is, unless the relief wells get close but don't work for some reason. Then it might be good to have a small nuke that can be run down the relief well.

If I understand it correctly, the idea is to have a smallish nuke explosion that melts the casing and the rock around it. Then when the rock cools down and freezes, in theory it ought to plug the hole. Or else the oil is under so much pressure it pushes through the half-frozen rock, and then you have leaks through several channels and there's no way to fix it.

By the way, I saw a report by the Coast Guard today. They've been collecting samples of tar washing washing up on the beaches and chemically analyzing it. Only about half matches the Deepwater Horizon oil. Some is the oil that naturally percolates up from underground, but a lot of it is fuel oil - like what ships burn. Apparently ship captains think this leak is an opportunity to really flush out the crud from the bilges and tanks, without having to pay for hazardous waste collection...