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Water took the power

A rainstorm Saturday led to the leakage in the entrance in the seed vault. Photo: Hilde Røsvik FOTO: Hilde Røsvik

Water took the power

The fire department had to scramble to help when water penetrated the Svalbard Global Seed Vault during extreme rain last weekend.

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"Yes, it is true that there has been a water intrusion during the weekend. We have now secured the area where the water has come in," said Hege Njaa Aschim, communications director for the Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property, which has been tasked to handle all inquiries about the leak.

Fuses and electricity went out due to water intrusion. The transformer that was damaged by water is now repaired.

"All the seeds are well protected and secured; there we take no chances," Aschim said.

She said that they keep emergency workers on alert the entire day when there are reports of heavy rain.

"We will make sure to have staffing, and people coming and periodically making checks," Aschim said.

Safety work
This summer the directorate began preparations to build physical barriers to prevent meltwater from Platåberget collecting around the access tunnel.

"The seed vault is safe but access for parties has provided some challenges in this weather," Aschim said. "We are extra protective of the vault. It is important for us to think both holistically and long-term in planning."

The transformer will be moved outside to eliminate an unnecessary heat source and to ensure easier access when inspection or repairs are needed. Also included in the plan is an expansion of the parking lot.

Test drilling
The directorate also applied to conduct 27 rock drillings behind the seed vault to map the subsurface for water, permafrost and other related challenges. The vault is registered as a national heritage site, but the Directorate for Cultural Heritage has given permission for such drilling with the provision that all holes are filled properly again after the mapping.

"We are now implementing measures to ensure operation occurs with an eternal perspective," Aschim said.

Secure
"The vault is safe; it is the entrance that now represents a challenge," she says.

It is the first time that there have been problems due to wet weather and this type of water intrusion.

"We are in a weather situation now where there is heavy rain and loose soil," Aschim said. "Therefore, we must take every precaution. This extreme weather has meant that we have implemented additional measures. It had not been in the cards that we needed to take such considerations."

There was previously was a water intrusion in the outermost section of the tunnel that is 35 meters long.

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New seeds

New seeds were deposited Tuesday in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This time the seeds are from Burundi, Colombia, India, Singapore, the Nordic countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Japan, Peru, and Nigeria. Altogether 29 boxes containing 9,866 different seed types were added to the seed bank after they were scanned at the airport. The next scheduled deposit of seeds is in late February of next year.

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