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Video: Oil flows freely as BP readies new cap

  1. Transcript of: Oil flows freely as BP readies new cap

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: That delicate operation to place a new cap atop the gushing oil well beneath the Gulf of Mexico got under way this afternoon. It's a bit of a gambit that, for the time being , means there is no cap over the leak, and that's allowing thousands of more barrels of oil to freely pour into the sea. But BP says the trade-off is that by as soon as next week engineers could have a new, tighter-fitting cap in place, one capable of capturing most if not all the leaking oil. It's an operation fraught with risks and outlined with plenty of caveats, but it is raising a glimmer of hope tonight amid what had been a blackened tide of mostly bad news. NBC 's Anne Thompson is in Venice , Louisiana , tonight with the latest for us. Anne , good evening.

    ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Good evening, Lester . There is a whole lot of hope riding on that work that's going on out at the leak site tonight. But in an ironic and disheartening twist for the people of Louisiana , BP says in order to do a better job of containing the oil it must first let more oil -- in fact, a lot more oil -- flow out. Today remotely operated vehicles took off the cap, dramatically increasing the amount of oil gushing into the gulf. This is the first step in a multistage process to install a better-fitting cap, what BP calls a sealing cap, the centerpiece of the oil giant's plan for a new, more effective containment system.

    Mr. KENT WELLS: I think the big way to look at it is over the next four to seven days, depending on how things go, we should get that sealing cap on. That's our plan.

    THOMPSON: During that time, much of the oil will flow unimpeded. Some will be collected and burned off by the Q4000 , and tomorrow BP hopes to get the Helix Producer working, one of three new vessels that will join the Discoverer Enterprise , potentially tripling the 25,000-barrel-a-day collection average of the old system.

    Mr. WELLS: So over the next two weeks or so we'll get to a total of 60 to 80,000 barrels a day of containment.

    THOMPSON: If things go according to plan, the Q4000 will then leave. Until the containment system captures every drop of oil, this is what the gulf

    can expect: instead of whitecaps, oilcaps, waves of crude ruining the water and the coast. On day 82, along a six-mile stretch, we found oil in small pieces three miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River , but no cleanup vessels, a disheartening sight for charter boat captain James Peters .

    Mr. JAMES PETERS: There's nobody, no planes, no nothing. This is dropping the ball, and this is about to just coat the whole coastline.

    THOMPSON: Today Health and Human Services ' Kathleen Sebelius met with the men and women cleaning up the oil on Grand Isle . She defended their 20 minutes on, 40 minutes off work schedule under the scorching Louisiana sun.

    Secretary KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: The last thing we want is that the workers who are in charge of the cleanup then are made sicker by the work that they do, and I think that balance, that occupational safety issue, is really important.

    THOMPSON: Now, the federal government says it is going to monitor the health of those cleanup workers for both the short term and the long term. But I can tell you that for the next week the world's attention will be riveted to the work that's going on 5,000 feet under the sea. Lester :

    HOLT: Anne Thompson tonight, thanks.

Photos: Month 4

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  1. The Blue Dolphin, left, and the HOS Centerline, the ships supplying the mud for the static kill operation on the Helix Q4000, are seen delivering mud through hoses at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana, on Aug. 3, 2010. In the background is the Development Driller III, which is drilling the primary relief well. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Eddie Forsythe and Don Rorabough dump a box of blue crabs onto a sorting table at B.K. Seafood in Yscloskey, La., on Aug. 3, 2010. The crabs were caught by fisherman Garet Mones. Commercial and recreational fishing has resumed, with some restrictions in areas that were closed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Chuck Cook / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Sea turtle hatchlings that emerged from eggs gathered on the northern Gulf Coast of Florida are released at Playalinda Beach on the Canaveral National Seashore near Titusville, Fla., on Aug. 2, 2010. The sea turtles were born at a Kennedy Space Center incubation site, where thousands of eggs collected from Florida and Alabama beaches along the Gulf of Mexico have been sent. (Craig Rubadoux / Florida Today via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A crab, covered with oil, walks along an oil absorbent boom near roso-cane reeds at the South Pass of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana on Aug. 1, 2010. BP is testing the well to see if it can withstand a "static kill" which would close the well permanently. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A boat motors through a sunset oil sheen off East Grand Terre Island, where the Gulf of Mexico meets Barataria Bay on the La. coast, on the evening of July 31. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Oil approaches a line of barges and boom positioned to protect East Grand Terre Island, partially seen at top right, on July 31. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is seen near an unprotected island in the Gulf of Mexico near Timbalier Bay, off the coast of Louisiana on Wednesday, July 28. (Gerald Herbert / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Greenpeace activists stand outside a BP gas station in London, England, on July 27 after they put up a fence to cut off access. Several dozen BP stations in London were temporarily shut down to protest the Gulf spill. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. James Wilson sells T-shirts to those arriving in Grand Isle, La., for the music festival Island Aid 2010 on July 24. (Dave Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Activists covered in food coloring made to look like oil protest BP's Gulf oil spill in Mexico City on July 22. The sign at far left reads in Spanish "Petroleum kills animals." (Alexandre Meneghini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. People in Lafayette, La., wear "Keep Drilling" tee shirts at the "Rally for Economic Survival" opposing the federal ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, July 21. Supporters at the rally want President Obama to lift the moratorium immediately to protect Louisiana's jobs and economy. (Ann Heisenfelt / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A flock of white ibis lift off from marsh grass on Dry Bread Island in St. Bernard Parish, La., July 21. Crews found about 130 dead birds and 15 live birds affected by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on July 19 in the eastern part of the parish behind the Chandeleur Islands. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the BP Oil Spill Victim Compensation Fund testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on July 21 in Washington, D.C. The hearing was to examine the claim process for victims of the Gulf Coast oil spill. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An American white pelican has its wings checked during a physical examination at Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Hospital by Michael Adkesson and Michael O’Neill on July 21. The bird, along with four other pelicans, was rescued from the Gulf Coast oil spill and will be placed on permanent exhibit at the zoo. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Native people of the Gwich'in Nation form a human banner on the banks of the Porcupine River near Ft. Yukon, Alaska July 21, in regard to the BP oil spill with a message to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil development. The images include a Porcupine caribou antler and a threatened Yukon River Salmon. (Camila Roy / Spectral Q via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Gerald Herbert / AP
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  5. Image:
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