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Engineering360: "Warming Trend Prompts Action at 'Doomsday' Vault"

05/22/2017 9:57 AM

Read Engineering360 article: Warming Trend Prompts Action at 'Doomsday' Vault.

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Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 2914
Good Answers: 115
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Re: Warming Trend Prompts Action at 'Doomsday' Vault

05/22/2017 11:56 AM

The real 'gotcha' is the entrance tunnel - it slopes downward, then slightly upward to the seed vault but not far enough. There are pumps at the bottom of the tunnel to remove water. Thing is, if there is a catastrophe and its power plant fails for lack of fuel, those pumps won't work and water will accumulate. Not good.
Right now water entering the tunnel freezes, but a warming trend could raise temps above that point. If you want to keep water from accumulating in a tunnel, you build it with an upward slope so that the water drains out naturally.

That entrance isn't the only point for water ingress. The vault and its tunnel are built in sandstone which is highly porous and permeable to water.
Now let's say the climate warms to the point where, instead of getting snow, they get rain. That rainwater percolates through the rock and into the tunnel and vault (remember, this thing is supposed to last millennia). Meanwhile the pumps aren't running and guess what? There is nowhere for it to go and so it pools. They did not think this through.
They repurposed an abandoned mine for this and so used what they had. Really, though, this is far too important to leave such things to chance, such as tunnel slopes. If you want it to last millennia you engineer the whole thing to be fail-safe. If it needs power to work, you screwed up. Power is the first thing to go.
Ironically, its power plant is coal-fired.

(note: -18C is -0.4F, not -4F)

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