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BP CEO: It Could Be Weeks Or Months Before Gulf Spill Is Stopped

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BP CEO: It Could Be Weeks Or Months Before Gulf Spill Is Stopped

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BP CEO: It Could Be Weeks Or Months Before Gulf Spill Is Stopped

"It's certainly possible" that the massive amount of oil being spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from a damaged deep sea well-head won't be shut off for weeks or even months, BP CEO Tony Hayward just told All Things Considered co-host Michele Norris.

"It's not what we're planning on," he said. "It's not what we're wanting to have as the outcome. But we have to recognize that as a possibility."

Here's that part of their conversation:

BP CEO: It Could Be Weeks Or Months Before Gulf Spill Is Stopped

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During the interview, Hayward talked about the failure of the attempt to put a large containment "dome" over the leak, in order to then pump most of the oil to a tanker on the surface. Within the next 72 hours, he said, BP is going to try to put a smaller containment structure over the area. It's hoped it won't get clogged, as the larger one did.

Hayward. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) hide caption

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Hayward. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The company is also pursuing a plan to seal a leaking "blowout preventer" on the sea floor. And it continues to drill a "relief well" — an operation that could take several months.

An estimated 210,000 gallons of oil a day are leaking into the gulf. According to the Associated Press, "the first patches of oil have reached barrier islands in Louisiana and Alabama."

Hayward made the case that BP and the oil industry have, until the April 20 blow-out of the rig about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, had a good track record regarding deep-sea drilling. There have been 5,000 such wells drilled — 1,500 by BP — and "this is the first time we've had a major incident," Hayward said.

While he conceded that is "nothing to crow about" given what's happening now, Hayward argued that just as the space program wasn't shut down after accidents and just as air travel doesn't stop after crashes, offshore drilling shouldn't be stopped because of the events in the Gulf. "We need to learn the lessons here," he said. "But I don't believe it will mean we stop drilling in the deep waters."

BP CEO: It Could Be Weeks Or Months Before Gulf Spill Is Stopped

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Much more of Michele's discussion with Hayward will be on today's edition of ATC. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. Later, the as-broadcast version of the interview will be posted here.

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NPR's On the Media, by the way, did an interesting report this weekend about "the scale of the spill" and how many in the news media have not been doing a particularly good job in explaining the environmental effects of this disaster.