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Activity title

Impact of underwater dumped munitions and maritime safety, security and sustainable remediation

Activity Reference

AVT-330

Panel

Applied Vehicle Technology

Security Classification

NATO UNCLASSIFIED

Status

Planning

Activity type

RTG

Start date

2020

End date

2022

Keywords

Disposal, Environmental, Munitions, Safety, Sea Dumping

Background

Significant work has been carried out in NATO on the methods for Disposal of Munitions (AVT115, AVT 177); the development of Greener Munitions (AVT179) and studies of munition land contamination (AVT197). One area that has been identified as needing further study is the handling and management of munitions and explosives of concern (MEC) underwater. NATO needs to be able to assess the impacts originating from MEC at sea, in estuaries, in rivers and in lakes. The methods available for mitigating these impacts also need evaluation with gaps identified. The tools available should be applicable to both organised dumpings and war casualties. Multinational groups are developing new technologies, which can be used to address NATO requirements. The fact that these are being developed outside NATO, offers an opportunity to work with these other groups, with the aim of gathering expertise and capabilities that allow NATO to manage the impacts.

Objectives

The capabilities listed above will require the assessment and full consideration of the impacts caused by underwater munitions; the integration of the results from non-NATO studies and the assessment of gaps particular to NATO needs and requirements. The current and prospective ability to handle MEC and assess the risks associated with them both in dumped and recovered state must also be assessed. This will result in a technical report. Furthermore, an agenda for the training of NATO personnel in order to make informed decisions when dealing with munitions and when operating technologies for the detection and clearance of munitions is required. This update of capabilities will include an improvement of the common operational picture of the maritime area including Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA) and REP (Rapid Environmental Picture) activities. This approach will require close links with other NATO bodies such as CMRE and CoE. These achievements will be compiled in a best practise handbook. Overall this work will increase the NATO expertise for the handling of MEC underwater in a range of aquatic environments.

Topics

Promoting synergies within NATO. Consolidated and new approaches proposed require international field cases where tests are carried out. The multinational nature of the Organisation is the ideal context for this. A NATO umbrella will provide an ideal context for a coordinated and internationally based effort. Exchange of practices and data sharing to validate theories and models. Establishing knowledge exchange is essential to properly establish a common scientific baseline. This will include a synthetic approach that leads to “good practices” based on solid scientific findings. This will shed light on several aspects (corrosion rates, their dependence on environmental factors, fates of warfare agents and explosive degradation products in the environment, hydrodynamic transport, effect-related properties of explosives, etc.) that are still poorly known. New methodologies, improvements and standardization. There is a strong need to have inexpensive validated methodologies available and to have awareness of biomarker effects of environmental stress. Existing methods for the assessment of ecotoxicological risk shall be reviewed and new ones shall be proposed. This will benefit from links both within in NATO and outside. Risk-Assessment approaches to deliver a full risk picture. A compilation of existing MEC related risk assessment methods and a collection impacts and risks resulting from dumped MEC will provide a knowledge-based support for interventions in terms of options, guidelines, and scenarios, with the final aim to reduce the risk for the operators and the environment. The increase in risk originating from intensified utilization of the seafloor will be included in this assessment. Increased efficiency with a shared use of infrastructure. Numerical models can help understanding how basic processes interact, other specific interest relies on pressure pulse effects following an explosion, how the spread of chemicals and their degradation products could be limited to narrow regions.

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