Cooling begins in doomsday vault

Published: Saturday 15 December 2007

The seed bank (Credit: SVALBARD GLOBAL SEED VAULT)Engineers began pumping chilly air into a 'doomsday vault' in Norway's Svalbard archipelago on November 16. Designed to protect the world's seeds in the event of a disaster, the Svalbard global Seed Vault is built inside an already frozen mountain.

Engineers will now bring the vault's temperature further down to -18c with the help of a 30-kw refrigeration system. Following this, a smaller cooling system and the mountain's permafrost will maintain the temperature. "At this temperature, seeds of important crops such as wheat, barley and peas can sustain for 1,000 years," said Cary Flower, head of the Italy-based Global Crop Diversity Trust, a project partner. The vault's design will ensure that the seeds will stay healthy even in case of global warming, said Magnus Bredeli Tveiten of the Norwegian government's directorate of public construction. The facility is due to open on February 26, 2008.

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