05/26/2010 01:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

BP Oil Spill: The Nuclear Option

With the BP oil spill in constant news cycle, it is no surprise that solutions to the crisis are coming from far and wide. As conventional methods for halting the gusher continue to fail spectacularly, more non-traditional ideas are cropping up everywhere. Everything, including using hair, hay, garbage, and used golf balls has been suggested, but so far none of these remedies has been tried. One solution that is getting increased attention on the web and in the European press is the terrifying sounding nuclear option which, essentially, would detonate a nuclear bomb underground near the oil well shaft.

Such a suggestion is likely to set off alarm and irony bells especially for those who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, which took place near the mouth of the Gulf. Still, this method for collapsing the well and stopping the leak is not an untried fantasy of science-fiction. In fact, according to the Russian newspaper Pravda, since 1966 this technique has been used five times already to deal with analogous disasters in that country.

It sounds simple enough, in theory;"the underground explosion moves the rock, presses on it, and, in essence, squeezes the well's channel." A sign of the times, this technique already has its own Youtube video which has garnered nearly 7,000 hits so far. The footage comes from a Soviet-era propaganda film and shows precisely the steps involved in collapsing a compromised natural-gas mining shaft.

Could a similar technique work in the Gulf? According to a CBS News report, Russian science editor Vladimir Lagowski says 'maybe.' According to CBS, Lagowski wrote in a recent column "that the probability a nuke detonated a mile under the gulf would seal the Deepwater Horizon leak is perhaps 20 percent: 'Americans could take a chance.'"

But, for a post-Cold War America still reeling from terrorist attacks on our soil and fearful of the specter of dirty bombs and rogue nuclear attacks, could this solution ever be palatable? What are the lasting effects of such an explosion? Is there a potential for them to be even worse than the pollution from the dispersants already used to "solve" or abate the problem? Even more practically, perhaps, how long would it take to drill a mile below the Gulf to insert the bomb given that a relief well which is currently being drilled may take 90 days? Should we take a chance on a delayed solution when there might be faster and less frightening sounding options available?

As the geyser of oil continues to erupt and there appears to be no end in sight, President Obama's cool exterior and trademark patience seem to be cracking somewhat. According to the UK's Daily Telegraph, Obama has charged BP and its partners in the mess with "falling over each other to point the finger of blame at someone else." He continues that "...the potential devastation to the Gulf Coast, its economy, and its people require us to continue our relentless efforts to stop the leak."

To that end, there appear to be signs that a nuclear option may be one of the "relentless efforts" in Obama's solutions arsenal. Today, the administration sent a group of nuclear physicists to the Gulf to help stem the tide of the disaster. Again according to the Telegraph, BP CEO Tony Hayward described a "five-hour meeting [which] involved a 'very deep dive' into the situation at hand, with 'lots of nuclear physicists and all sorts of people coming up with some quite good ideas, actually.'" Asked to elaborate, he said they had "come up with one good idea," but said no more.