'Doomsday Vault' Flooding Sparks Quick Repair

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May 21, 2017

Scientists in Norway are working to repair flooding at the "Doomsday Vault."

The Svalbard-based repository of nearly 1 million seed samples from over the world is intended to aid in efforts to recover from a worldwide catastrophe or, at the least, provide seeds for a crop that disappears because of extinction. However, melting permafrost has resulted in water streaming into the entrance tunnel to the vault.

The vault, on the island of Spitsbergen, can hold up to 4.5 million seed samples. Nearly one-quarter of that amount are already stored within the vault, which was built more than 400 feet into solid rock.

The entrance tunnel extends nearly 400 feet to the vault doors. Most of that area extends downhill; the last bit of the tunnel is uphill, and it is there that any water gathers, for pumps to remove it.

Scientists at the facility insist that such flooding is a normal occurrence; this year's flooding was higher than in years past. Scientists also say that the temperature outside the door is so low that any water that overran the catchment-pump system and reached the door would freeze before becoming a threat. 

Factoring into the construction of the vault, which opened in 2008, was a study that predicted that if all of the ice in the world melted at the same time and created the world's largest tsunami, the vault would still be able to turn back any potential threat.

Still, crews are working to fix the leak.

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