Global food security is serious business, and when you have water seeping into a doomsday facility built to shore up food supplies for the future, well, that's hardly ideal. But such breaches should be a thing of the past, with Norwegian authorities overseeing the Svalbard Global Seed Vault planning a multi-million dollar overhaul of the structure.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault sits around halfway between Norway and the North Pole and is home to the world's largest seed collection. Built into a mountainside in the Arctic Circle, the seeds here are kept frozen even without power thanks to the climate, surrounding permafrost and icy rock.
This facility is a form of insurance against disasters, both natural and man-made, such as nuclear war or global warming. But with temperatures on the rise around the globe and the Arctic in particular experiencing extraordinarily warm temperatures, melted permafrost made its way into the vault's access tunnel last year.
No seeds were harmed, as any water seeping into the vault is immediately pumped out, but after 10 years of operation the Norwegian government thinks the time is right for reinforcements.
It has proposed spending a total of US$12.7 million on technical upgrades to the vault to better protect the more than 930,000 seed varieties inside. It has completed a feasibility study and plans to move ahead with the construction of a new concrete access tunnel and a new service building for the emergency power, refrigeration units and electrical equipment.
"The upgrades, which we hope to begin presently, will ensure that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault can continue to offer the world's gene banks a secure storage space in the future," said Norway's Minister of Agriculture and Food Jon Georg Dale. "It is a great and important task to safeguard all the genetic material that is crucial to global food security."
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