Due to incidents of water intrusion in periods of heavy rainfall in Svalbard, the Norwegian government is now in the process of preparing for construction improvements of the technical facility. The  current access tunnel will be replaced by a powerful and water resistant concrete construction.

A separate service building that will host all the technical installations for the seed vault will be constructed, in order to improve the functionality and avoid unnecessary heating elements inside the facility. Statsbygg is in charge of the improvement work and has already conducted minor preparatory work during 2017. The seed storage that is placed further inside the facility has remained safe during the incidents, and the construction work will not affect the safety of the seeds.

Statsbygg, that is responsible for the physical installation and for the technical operation of the Seed Vault, has made some improvements in 2017 and presented further plans for building a new access tunnel in 2018.

Finalized in spring 2019

Today’s tunnel, often called the Svalbard tube, will be replaced by a water resistant concrete construction. All technical installations will be moved to a separate service building adjacent to the Seed Vault in order to avoid unwanted heating. Minor preparatory work has already begun, but heavier construction work is scheduled to start in March/April 2018. The installation is estimated to be completed in May 2019.

Operation of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is carried out in collaboration between several players; the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF), the International foundation Crop Trust, NordGen and Statsbygg. The heavy rainfall in October 2016 led to massive media attention in the spring 2017, and the partners, decided to re-assure all seed depositors that the seeds in the Vault remained safe. The upcoming technical improvements will further enhance the long term security of the seeds.

Measures that already have been carried out in 2017 include removal of heat sources in the access tunnel, drainage ditches on the mountainside to prevent melting water from accumulating around the tunnel and the construction of waterproof walls inside the tunnel. In all, improvements carried out this year and planned for next year will provide several barriers against water intrusion in the future.
More information on Statsbygg webpages.