Thad Allen: New Cap Could Seal Oil Leak Completely

Government officials could give BP the green light as early as this afternoon to put in place a new, mutli-purpose cap on the oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico that could cap the well completely, Thad Allen, National Incident Commander for the Gulf Spill, said this morning on the CBS "Early Show."

"The hope is we can slowly turn off the valves, close the cap completely and test pressure to see how the well is performing," Allen said. "That will be an indication of the status of the well bore and could allow us the possibility of shutting in the well."

The new cap could seal the leak completely for the first time since the oil spill started after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20.

Until the leak can be sealed, the new cap will allow BP to collect more of the oil coming out of the well.

BP has submitted procedures on how to perform a well integrity test, Allen said, and government officials are reviewing them this morning and hope to perform the test this afternoon.

"We'll make a decision later today," he said. "The well integrity test will be critical in how we move forward."

Government officials and BP are moving quickly with this plan because of the opportunity afforded by the forecast of good weather for the next seven to 10 days, Allen said.

The new cap, however, is not intended to be the permanent solution to the spill. Relief wells are being dug for the final fix, called a "bottom kill," in which heavy drilling mud and cement are pumped in from below the broken wellhead.

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CBSNews.com Special Report: Disaster in the Gulf

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