Friday, January 21

When the USSR put out a gas well that had been burning for almost three years with the most insane of tools: a nuclear bomb

In 1966, the USSR authorities faced a problem not suitable for heart disease, complex even for the demanding Soviet commanders: one of their gas wells, that of Urta-Bulak, had almost three years — 1,064 days, to be precise— turned into a real hell.

In 1963 there had been a fire in the gas exploitation that, despite all the efforts of the operators, who tried to suffocate it with water and even used artillery, continued to burn non-combustible. The flames reached tens of meters highThe heat they generated was suffocating, the ground was covered in soot, and – to the despair of Soviet engineers and officials – a massive volume of gas was lost every day.

It is not necessary to imagine the violence of that hell. Videos and photos are preserved showing how the fiery jet gushed in the middle of a desert area. In an attempt to fix the problem –recuerda Interesting Engineering– USSR engineers tried to divert the gas flow, but the remedy was worse than the disease and the plan generated even more explosions and flames. The well was located in the province of Bukhara, present-day Uzbekistan

The best ally: a good nuclear bomb

To desperate problems, you know: desperate solutions. Faced with such a challenge and seeing that the alternatives proposed until then had been of little or no use, the Soviet authorities opted for an option that they had not tried until then: using the enormous pressure generated by a nuclear bomb to stop the leak. It was risky, a lot, and certainly a novel approach; but if it went well it could end the flames. In charge of manufacturing the 30-kiloton device, the committee was the Federal Nuclear Center of Russia, known as KB-11.

Once the explosive was prepared, the engineers opened two passages perpendicular to the well. Then they chose the best of both to that the pump could descend approximately 1,500 meters and be located about 35 m from the fire. The next step was to insert the 30 kiloton device and, for safety, fill the opening with copious amounts of cement. The detonation –collected by cameras and with which we can still marvel today– was scheduled for September 1966.

The outbreak was a success. How do you collect the Daily Mail, in less than half a minute – just 23 seconds Those seemingly incombustible flames that had been giving the Moscow experts headaches for months were extinguished. As if the well had been a gigantic tart candle and the deflagration a birthday boy blowing.

How to survive an atomic bomb (and why it is better not to run after the explosion)

On that cold autumn day in 1966, an unprecedented underground tremor shook the ground. […]. A dusty haze rose over the desert. The orange torch of the burning well dwindled, first slowly, then more quickly, until it blinked and finally went out. For the first time in 1,064 days, tranquility took hold of the area ”, then picked up a chronicle published in the Pravda Vostoka newspaper in Tashkent and remember today Interesting Engineering.

At least according to official reports, measurements taken in the area did not show radioactivity levels above those before the nuclear explosion.

The good taste in the mouth that Urta-Bulak left encouraged the experts, months later, to opt for a similar solution to suffocate the fire registered in the Pamuk gas field and that it extended through several wells. To put an end to the fire and given the size of the incident, in that case a 47 kiloton bomb was chosen and a depth of 2.44 km. The result was similar to that of September 1966: a few days later, the fire was history.

I said, to desperate problems … good is a historical deflagration.