TODAY   |  May 07, 2010

BP’s big box lowered down to well

Workers begin the long process of easing the giant concrete-and-steel containment unit down into the Gulf of Mexico to cover the blown-out, leaking oil well. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>> thanks again.

>>> now to that delicate operation in the gulf to try and contain that massive oil spill . a containment box is being put into position this morning some 5,000 feet below the surface. nbc 's chief environmental affairs correspondent anne thompson is in venice , louisiana for us. anne, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, meredith. as crews work out at sea, here on shore the economic pain is spreading with the slick. the state of louisiana has closed the shrimpers west of the mississippi and on the eastern barrier islands known as the chandeliers, oil has been found. all of this is ratcheting up pressure to stop that leak. the specially designed containment dome made its way down to the leak site overnight. it will cover 1 of the 2 remaining leaks, the one spewing 85% of the oil creating the mammoth slick. this has never been done a mile beneath the surface, and federal officials aren't counting on it.

>> i hope to works. it has not been used at that depth before. but we are still proceeding as if it won't.

>> reporter: what's at stake -- the containment dome doesn't work, more of the gulf could look like this. in chandelier sound east of louisiana , we found porpoises swimming in water tainted with dispersants and oil and parts of the open ocean look like swamp. the ceo of bp oil came to venice . is this accident going to change the fate of offshore drilling ?

>> i think that is really to be decided. it will be very surprising if people don't step back and take stock now.

>> reporter: late thursday evening , interior secretary ken salizar announced no new offshore drilling permits would be issued until after the spill review is complete.

>> there's some very major mistakes that were made by companies that were involved.

>> reporter: now as for that containment dome going down to the seabed, some 50 miles from the coast, this is a real big gamble by bp , but at this point it is their best chance to stop that leak. and they should know early next week if it's working. meredith?

>> thank you, anne. nbc 's anne thompson in venice , louisiana for us this morning.

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