At Doomsday Vault Meant to Protect Our Seeds, a Breach
But don't panic just yet
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2017 5:00 AM CDT
This is a March 2, 2016 file photo of an exterior view of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the secure seed bank on Svalbard, Norway.   (Heiko Junge/ NTB scanpix, File via AP)

(Newser) – "This is supposed to last for eternity," says the operator of the so-called Doomsday Vault, which since 2008 has been tucked within a mountain on a Norwegian island 800 miles from the North Pole where the soil is always frozen—or is supposed to be. The Guardian reports the Global Seed Vault "has been breached," with meltwater pouring into its entrance. This though Reuters in 2015 reported that the location on the island of Spitsbergen was supposed to be so cold that in the event of power failure the nearly 1 million packets of crop seeds within the vault would be preserved for at least 200 years. The issue now is skyrocketing temperatures (roughly 45 degrees above normal in late 2016) that replaced light snow with rain and melting, and their effect on the permafrost that surrounds the vault.

"It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there," explains Norwegian government rep Hege Njaa Aschim. Also not in the plans: watching the vault 24/7, as they are doing now. But now all the reasons not to panic: That water didn't make it to the vault, and new waterproofing work is underway. One of the vault's creators (who wasn't present during the incident) tells Popular Science "in my experience, there’s been water intrusion at the front of the tunnel every single year." He explains the protective mechanics of the path to the seeds: a 330-foot tunnel, two pumping stations, and a brief uphill slant before the vault, whose 0.4-degree Fahrenheit temperature would freeze any water that made it that far. (The vault saw its first withdrawal in 2015.)

My Take on This Story
Show results without voting  |  
6%
38%
16%
6%
25%
9%