Norway to boost flood protection of the Svalbard ‘doomsday’ seed vault
© RIA Novosti. Vitaliy Timkiv

Norway to boost flood protection of the Svalbard ‘doomsday’ seed vault

The Norwegian authorities have announced plans to boost the flood defenses of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The decision was taken after the vault was almost flooded last year, TASS reports.

The vault, also known as the doomsday seed vault, is designed to protect the world's crops from future disasters. It stores about of 2.5 billion seeds and is the largest facility of this kind in the world.

In October 2016, unseasonably high temperatures (the warmest year on record) caused the permafrost to melt, with water rising 15 meters in the 100-meter access tunnel. The seeds were not damaged, but it has since been decided to build walls inside the tunnel and to remove all sources of heat from it. The vault managers have told TASS that they would gladly listen to proposals from climate experts on additional protection measures.

The vault was built on Spitsbergen (Svalbard) Archipelago's remote island in the Arctic Ocean because permafrost was expected to provide failsafe protection against possible disasters. A temperature of —18ºC is required for optimal storage of the seeds, which are stored and sealed in custom made three-ply foil packages. The packages are sealed inside boxes and stored on shelves inside the vault. 

There are more than 1,700 gene banks that hold collections of food crops worldwide. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened in 2008 as a backup storage facility to protect seeds from the challenge of natural or man-made disasters. Each country owns and controls access to the seeds it has deposited.