Cooling process starts for world's doomsday seed bank on remote island

Refrigeration units were to begin on Friday further cooling a new doomsday vault, dug into an already frigid Arctic mountainside to protect the world's seeds in case of a global catastrophe. Norway blasted the Svalbard Global Seed Vault deep into the permafrost of a remote Arctic archipelago to protect as many as 4.5 million of the world's agricultural seeds from climate change, plant epidemics, natural disasters or war. It is due to open Feb. 26. The Svalbard Archipelago, 500 kilometers north of the mainland, was selected because it is remote and far from many threats, as well as for its cold climate and permafrost. "It's very satisfying to see the vault evolve from a bold concept to an impressive facility that has everything we need to protect crop biodiversity," said Norway's Agriculture Minister Terje Riis-Johansen. Norway first proposed building what it called a "Noah's Ark" for the world's seeds in June 2005, and started construction a year later, blasting a 120 meter tunnel into a frozen mountain and placing the vault for foil-wrapped seeds deep inside. Over the next two months, powerful cooling units will bring its temperature down to the target of -18 degrees Celsius from the current -5 degrees Celsius.