The underwater menace: EU funding helps detect unexploded bombs

The presence of UXO poses a threat to human health, marine ecosystems, and biodiversity. Those munitions rarely explode, though some can detonate if hit, but chemical munitions slowly corrode and release hazardous substances, such as mustard gas and white phosphorous: a veritable ecological ticking time bomb. The presence of UXO can also deter marine economic activities. The more offshore resources are developed, the more munitions are encountered and need to be cleaned up: one of the biggest motives for munition removal in northern sea and Baltic, is wind farm installation, cable laying and so forth. Two ongoing EU-funded project BASTA and ExPloTect are developing new methods to better detect UXO under the ocean.

Any locations where UXO are found requires careful site investigation before it can be declared safe. Two ongoing EU-funded projects, BASTA and ExPloTect, both coordinated by the GEOMAR HELMHOLTZ ZENTRUM FUR OZEANFORSCHUNG KIEL in Germany, are testing new methods of finding unexploded munitions under the ocean. Their combined approach might be decisive in determining where underwater UXO fields are, understanding what type of threat they represent, and therefore facilitating their removal.

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The EU funding supported the research and development’s efforts of BASTA and ExPloTect and contributed to increasing the safety for workers and the ocean environment by reducing the time and resources required to clear UXO from the seabed. The results of these two projects could be useful for  commercial Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) operators, as well as for marine environmental entities, governments, NGOs, and the fishing industry.

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