UNEXPLODED bombs from the Second World War litter the floor of the North Sea.

If encountered by a trawler or engineers installing wind turbines or laying cables, the results are potentially deadly.

Now, the hazard is being tackled by an unlikely bomb disposal squad: a team of environmental hydrologists in Wallingford.

The crew at HR Wallingford have used their world-class sea simulator to test how ocean currents might carry an unexploded bomb around.

At 75m long, the Fast Flow Facility at HR Wallingford’s Howbery Business Park lab is one of the world’s largest marine test facilities.

It holds a million litres of water and is able to generate waves up to 1m high and flows of over two metres per second.

Companies hoping to lay undersea cables locate unexploded bombs, but actions of currents move the bombs overtime.

The University of Rostock in Germany developed a model of ‘unexploded ordnance movement’ for which it has already conducted small-scale modelling.

Now, with co-funding from European electricity company TenneT – which supplies electricity to 41 million customers in the Netherlands and Germany – HR Wallingford is trying to generate large-scale data to better inform and validate this model.

Dr Peter Menzel, from the Sediment Transport Research Group at the University of Rostock, explained that the challenge was to try to work out all the factors affecting movement in the sea.

He said: “We have provided a model of a 1:1 scale 250lb World War II bomb and other typical unexploded ordnance at 1:2 scale.

“We are investigating how deeply the ordnance bury themselves over time, how current speed affects their movement, as well as how rates of flow affect scour around them.”

Prof Richard Whitehouse, chief technical director of sediment dynamics at HR Wallingford, added: “Our Fast Flow Facility provides a controlled environment in which to evaluate the effects of currents on full-sized UXO, and so provide the University of Rostock with validated data across a range of flow conditions, burial depths and mobilisation speeds.”

Dr Anja Drews, TenneT, said: “By funding this research, we are helping to ensure that knowledge in the industry about unexploded ordnance movement is as accurate as possible, improving safety by quantifying, and thereby minimising, the risk to people and equipment.”

HR Wallingford describes itself as ‘an independent civil engineering and environmental hydraulics organisation’.

It made headlines in August this year when engineers there helped to pull the world’s largest floating structure across 4,000 miles of ocean.

The team created a simulation for hauling the floating gas station from South Korea to Australia.