Undersea cable could disrupt bioweapons

A planned undersea electricity cable could disturb more than a million tons of unexploded bombs, chemical and biological weapons, battleships, submarines and nuclear waste lying in Scottish waters.

National Grid and Scottish Power want to run a 250 mile high-voltage line underneath the Irish Sea from Ayshire to Connah’s Quay, but fears that the potentially deadly explosives could wash up on beaches or get caught in local fishing nets, according to Express.co.uk.

The cable would have to navigate Beaufort’s Dyke, a half-mile deep trench that lies off the Rhins of Galloway, where large quantities of unused munitions were jettisoned after World War II and private companies have dumped toxic waste since.

In 1995, when a gas pipeline was laid between Scotland and Ireland, more than 4,500 bombs washed up along the west coast or were caught in fishing nets, Express.co.uk reports. A four-year-old boy suffered burns to his hands as the result of a dried out phosphorous bomb exploding.

“An undersea cable is vastly preferable to despoiling the landscape with overhead lines but they have got to be aware that more than one million tons of munitions was dumped in Beaufort’s Dyke,” Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said, according to Express.co.uk. “Because the crews given the contract were paid per ship load, a lot of it was just taken out of sight of land and thrown over the side. A lot of munitions never ended up anywhere near the deep trench.”

Stevenson said he has personally seen hundreds of bombs wash up on the beach near his home.

“I would appeal to the energy companies to be extremely careful and avoid any areas that look suspicious, not only Beaufort’s Dyke," Stevenson said, Express.co.uk reports. "Any underwater trenching work could dislodge all sorts of things. It is easy enough to avoid the trench itself, but the problem is shallow water all around it where hundreds of thousands of tons will be located."

The cable will supply England and Wales with surplus electricity from Scotland, taking into account future increases in both wave and wind power, but overhead power lines are already running at full capacity. Plans for a new converter station will be submitted this summer and work on the project could begin in 2013.

Officials for National Grid said they are carrying out research before making a finalized route for the cable.

 “We have no intention of going near the waters where the ammunition is located,” a spokeswoman said, according to Express.co.uk. “There are resources we can access to tell us where the ammunition is and we will be endeavoring to keep well away from it."