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New weapons against old bombs

The latest weapon in the fight against the old bombs in the sea, is located between the rods in a container large room. A tarp hides the Interior from view of the guests. The patent-protected technology in the demonstration hall of the salvage company Boskalis Hirdes EOD Services in Hamburg-Harburg is not compatible to a lot of Public. After all, it is in the case of this Demonstration, the project name "Robemm", a challenging throw, the German economy has supported the Ministry in the past three years with 3.5 million euros, The company's engineers have designed a dry chamber, the under water old ammunition and self-harmless.

The guests go to the reception room, to experience from there, via a live camera presentation from the chamber. A bomb mock-up appears in a flap. A robotic arm is approaching, docks, a water jet cutter. Mist rises, as the robotic arm with precise cut interrupts the firing mechanism. He gets the cut-out fuse is not completely out of the dummy. Anything is stuck. But Frank Seubring, technical Director at Boskalis Hirdes, is not insecure. "This is a test," he says, "it will be researched further."

hazard for Offshore installations

War debris in the sea is for the post-war society is a big topic. For decades anyone about it, probably due to the fact talked, the old ammunition in the Depths of the lake seemed to be in good hands. But this attitude does not work any more, at the latest, since the sea has become the site of the energy turnaround-society. Wind farm projects off the coast are already in default, because their cables were paths through minefields. Also at the next planned Offshore installations, the danger is lurking in the deep. Technologies are in demand, the find the war scrap and low-risk, such as environmentally friendly clean up.

experts estimate that alone in the German seas, 1.6 million tons of war scrap rusting away: 300'000 tons in the Baltic sea, 1.3 million in the North sea. Schleswig-Holstein's Ministry of the environment broke some years ago, the Silence about it after the then Minister Robert Habeck (Green party) had listened to the warnings resourceful government employees. Since then, a variety of research is ongoing. Robemm the probably most spectacular project with the most unwieldy title, announced: "Robotic underwater salvage, and disposal procedures, including a technique for Delaboration of ammunition in the sea, especially in coastal and shallow water area".

And there are other initiatives. In early February, the Thünen, and the Alfred - Wegener-Institute in Bremerhaven, the results of your EU-funded research project Daimon (Decision Aid for Marine munitions), the impacts of munitions on the marine fauna. Soon after, the balance of Udemm (environmental monitoring for the Delaboration of ammunition in the sea), the marine scientists from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Institute Geomar and the Institute for Baltic sea research in Warnemünde as well as toxicologists of the University of Kiel, the locations of ammunition on the basis of water quality allowed.

fish with liver tumors

Daimon and Udemm provide data that show where the proposed robot is needed the most. Safety in construction and ship routes is a top priority in the disposal of explosive ordnance; that moored mines, or water can explode bombs even after decades, was always clear. That the ammunition could be harmful for the duration of the life in the sea and, ultimately, to the people, was for a long time conservationists more of a not-a reminder of nature.

Now Daimon has shown that fish in the ammunition dumping area heaped Kolberger Heide liver tumors and traces of the carcinogenic explosive TNT in the muscle meat. Udemm has shown that the TNT-concentration in the radius of one Meter around the bombs is relatively high. "Kolberger Heide", says Geomar-Professor Jens Greinert, "is a Contamination of the Pool."

The Kolberger Heide is Heidkate an under water landscape to the North-East of the Kiel fjord, just a few kilometers off the coast of the resort. After the Second world war, the allies disposed of, among other things, there's tons of ammunition. The twelve-square-kilometer Area is a restricted area. The Udemm researchers, it served as a backdrop for their Tests. There you have shown that the war scrap explosives gives off typical Connections to the water. That mussels absorb this, if you are in the vicinity. And other organisms as well: "Crawls a starfish on it, the contaminated well," says Greinert.

That the ammo could be damaging to the life in the sea and the people, was for a long time conservationists more of a not-a reminder of nature.

Is free of explosive completely, because salt water and time have corroded the steel case, he puts the sea even stronger. And Baltic sea water without the TNT-content no longer exists, according to Udemm practical. "Anywhere, where we have samples, we have shown TNT," says Greinert. The sea is a salt-water-explosives mixture? So dramatically, it is not the case, says Greinert: TNT thinning fast, the concentration of the explosive substance was therefore striking, because the Geomar researchers are Hyper sensitive measurement methods with detection quantities are used, which are a thousand times lower than anything that you could prove so far.

How much TNT is dangerous?

However, toxicologists find even the smallest traces of explosives in the sea a lot. The bomb fields could be harmful for the duration of entire generations of marine organisms. Greinert says: "You want to bring not a Population of sick fish." He therefore recommends a careful observation of the war remains under the water.

The methods to do this, has brought forth Udemm, and Geomar will continue to pursue the topic further. "We need to stringently and methodically, watching, when, how much TNT is in the water and whether it is dangerous," says Greinert. Also from the Federal Ministry for the environment, it is with reference to recent research: "Here will be to examine to what extent the results directly to other areas in the Baltic sea and beyond." The authority sees no large-scale threat.

There, where the war scrap is dangerous, would Robemm into the game. The ordnance clearance on the open sea is a complicated process that usually ends with explosions, expensive protection and deterrence, mass is not increased, so that the pressure wave of the Detonation, and the noise can cause so much damage.

With Robemm everything would be different. The underwater chamber with the robot arm would be suspended from a pontoon to the right place with a Autonomous snow plow. The vehicle would place the bombs on the door of the drying chamber, the robot would be remote powered and controlled with the data of the fight by means of and could this defuse independently with targeted cuts. The explosives would be blown up on the lake, the recycled scrap metal to country.

a reality of this Vision? For the time being, the Boskalis-Hirdes-engineers have proven that their concept works. The next step would be to build a prototype that has to prove itself, before eventually a series production begins. "A private company can not manage it alone," says managing Director Jan Paulsen, and sends out a clear message. If politics and society that the bombs in the sea, silently and without disease-causing residues disappear, then you must also go to the following projects financially.

(editing Tamedia)

Created: 01.05.2019, 18:21 PM

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