Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

80 World War bombs classified as ‘safe’ by Joanna Lumley

The munitions were removed from Scotland’s Moray Firth in a landmark operation to protect marine habitats.
Specialists EODEX used a “low order” deflagration technique to carry out the task.

The Absolutely Fabulous star is fronting the Stop Sea Blasts campaign, urging governments to use less impactful ways to clear unexploded bombs and mines.

Dame Joanna said: “I am thrilled to my bones that the EODEX team have demonstrated in such spectacular style just how effective, safe and environmentally friendly low order deflagration really is.

“To hear they have safely disposed of over 80 unexploded munitions with only a hand clap of a noise is just wonderful.

“I know that the Government and their various regulators are all beavering hard to develop the policy position on this issue into a tougher set of rules and guidance.

“I’m sure that this amazing success can only give regulators comfort that they are right to press on with this task with an even greater sense of urgency. I know that if they could talk, all our wonderful sea creatures would surely add their voices to that call too.”

Low order deflagration makes munitions safe by ‘burning out’ their explosive contents, avoiding dramatic noise and shock waves.

Detonations are widely attributed to be a key factor in mass stranding events – such as the Kyle of Durness in July 2011, where 19 long-finned pilot whales died in distressing circumstances.

There are believed to be some 300,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance in UK coastal waters and the need for an environmentally friendly means of disposal has increased in line with the growing number of offshore windfarms.

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Operations at the Moray West project began in April and ran through to September, with a total of 83 targets identified including munitions with degraded casings.

Items cleared included a mixture of mines, bombs, torpedoes, and naval projectiles ranging from 4.5 to 15 inch calibre and dating from both World Wars.

All scrap debris and waste were removed from the seabed without trace of explosive residue left behind.

Pete Geddes, Project Director for the Moray West offshore wind farm, said: “EODEX had provided an excellent service, working closely with our team to ensure the site was cleared of UXO in an environmentally safe way and in time to allow offshore installation works to commence on programme.

“We are pleased that this UK company has developed an effective UXO disposal mechanism that reduces environmental risk.
“Avoiding High Order detonations on this project has reduced the potential for environmental harm, been well received by key stakeholders and demonstrates our commitment to working with innovators to drive best practice in the sector.”

Simon Morgan, Chief Executive of EODEX said: “For decades, industry has been clearing munitions from the Second World War using Second World War techniques: just blowing them up. This has caused immense damage to the marine environment and sea creatures – and that’s unforgivable when alternatives exist.

“We are proud to play a leading role in efforts to persuade law makers and regulators to change the licencing regime so that only proven low order clearance techniques, such as our low order deflagration, can be used in subsea clearances.”

In November 2021 the Government issued an Interim Position Statement stating that low order clearance techniques should be “prioritised”.

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