NYTimes: ...Much of the enthusiasm for an atomic approach is based on reports that the Soviet Union succeeded in using nuclear blasts to seal off gas wells. Milo D. Nordyke, in a 2000 technical paper for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., described five Soviet blasts from 1966 to 1981.
All but the last blast were successful. The 1966 explosion put out a gas well fire that had raged uncontrolled for three years. But the last blast of the series, Mr. Nordyke wrote, “did not seal the well,” perhaps because the nuclear engineers had poor geological data on the exact location of the borehole.
Robert S. Norris, author of “Racing for the Bomb” and an atomic historian, noted that all the Soviet blasts were on land and never involved oil.
Whatever the technical merits of using nuclear explosions for constructive purposes, the end of the cold war brought wide agreement among nations to give up the conduct of all nuclear blasts, even for peaceful purposes. The United States, after conducting more than 1,000 nuclear test explosions, detonated the last one in 1992, shaking the ground at the Nevada test site.
Pundits joked about the appointment of astrophysicist Jonathan Katz to the DOE "dream team" that advised Obama on how to deal with the oil spill. What would an astrophysicist know about capping an oil well? These pundits were unaware of Katz's work as a Jason. (See also here. Jasons Steve Weinberg, Freeman Dyson and Richard Muller invented adaptive optics, which was promptly classified by the military and kept from civilian astronomers for a decade.)
Of course, we all know what happened to Katz once his politically incorrect views came to light. We first mentioned Katz on this blog back in 2004.