Norway will spend 100 million Norwegian crowns ($ 12.7 million) to upgrade the doomsday seed vault it built ten years ago. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built in an abandoned arctic coal mine to store and protect crops and plants in the world from natural or man-made disasters. If nuclear war or global warming kills certain crops, governments may request seeds from the vault to restart their agricultural industries.
The Norwegian government says the improvements will include the construction of a new concrete access tunnel and a service building that will house "emergency and cooling power units and other electrical equipment that emits heat through the tunnel." Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Jon Georg Dale, said the works will start soon. "It is a great and important task to safeguard all the genetic material that is crucial for global food security," Dale said in a statement.
The vault is located on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago between Norway and the North Pole and has the capacity to store 4.5 million crop varieties. It currently contains more than 890,000 samples from almost every country in the world, including varieties of staple crops such as corn, rice, wheat, cowpea, barley and potatoes.
The researchers removed seeds for the first time from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in 2015. These were used to create seed banks in Morocco and Lebanon, after the Central Seed Bank of the Aleppo region in Syria was damaged during the civil war of the country. The seeds have re-grown and were re-deposited in the vault of Norway in 2017.
Last year, the melting of permafrost caused by unusually warm temperatures leaked into the seed vault, but fortunately, the water did not flood into the vault. The island on which the seed vault is built also houses the World Data Archive, a place where, instead of seeds, the data is stored on film reels specially manufactured and kept safe.