Oil company hopes to drill near nuclear-blast cavity in Colorado

Some 36 years ago, the Atomic Energy Commission and a Texas oil company put a nuclear bomb in an 8,000-foot shaft on Colorado’s energy-rich Western Slope and detonated it, hoping to reach a reserve of natural gas lying beneath the subterranean rock. They succeeded in releasing the gas, but it was too radioactive to be used — duh — and a 40-acre perimeter around the blast site was put off-limits, with another half-mile added to the no-drill zone last year. But that may not stop one Texan oil company from accessing the reserve. If its plans are approved by Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — which has never denied a drilling permit — the company will get at the natural gas using a method called hydraulic fracing, which company flacks say won’t disturb the radioactive material. Residents of surrounding Garfield County aren’t so sure. Says local plumber and farmer Scott Brynildson, “Let’s see, you drill a hole, put a nuclear bomb in it, explode the bomb, then come back and frac it. Real smart.”