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THE COST OF A BOMB


Long forgotten remnants of war and munitions dumps are lurking in the depths of the world’s seas. Simon Cooke, Managing Director of 6 Alpha Associates, talked to Tanita Cross about how to manage the risk of disturbing the delicate seabed while sourcing renewable energy offshore.


At a time when the global supply of crude oil is dwindling, the world’s energy needs are growing. In preparation for when we strike the bottom of the well, the renewable energy sector has flourished in recent years. Attempts to harness the power of the wind, in particular, have taken many companies out to sea.


Millions of tonnes of unexploded bombs, sea mines and other munitions are submerged in the world’s oceans. When left alone this unexploded ordnance (UXO) poses little threat to the general public. However, these fragments of hard- fought days gone by are a serious hazard if the seabed is disturbed.


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And disturbed it has been of late. During the first half of 2014, 224 offshore wind turbines were fully grid connected and 233 foundations were carefully installed in European waters. For the project developers and workers, these construction projects present a whole host of risks. One of the most potentially threatening, though, is UXO.


6 Alpha Associates is one of the firms whose raison d’être is to help manage the complex risk of UXO. Simon Cooke, Managing Director of the risk management consultancy, says that the first step for developers is to establish the threat: “If you’re a project manager on an offshore scheme always ask, ‘is there a UXO threat on my site? Why


should there be any unexploded ordnance on my site?’”


Assessing whether or not there is a UXO threat starts with a desktop study undertaken by a specialist. Checking historical sources for war fighting activity and munitions dumps is the first port of call. Millions of sea mines were deployed during World War Two, but 30% of these were never recovered. Along with the 10% of air-delivered bombs that failed to explode during the conflict, they are now cast adrift in the water. There are also military training areas at sea today for which the armed forces use live munitions. Some of this weaponry also remains as UXO, so it too must be considered.


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