During an informal session of Parliament yesterday, the Chairman of the Centre party inquired as to the government’s progress on protective barriers against potential volcanic eruptions near Grindavík, Vísir reports. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir responded by noting that recommendations for such barriers were expected to be submitted to the government for review in the coming days. Recent earthquakes caused visible damage to infrastructure near Mt. Þorbjörn, prompting HS Orka to initiate preparatory work for barriers at the Svartsengi power plant.
Inquiry into the state of protective barriers
During an informal question session in Parliament, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Chairman of the Centre Party, raised concerns about the construction of protective barriers and other preventive measures in response to potential volcanic eruptions near Grindavík. He urged the government to heed expert advice and make decisions regarding the construction of these barriers to protect settlements and infrastructure.
“Isn’t it time to start heeding the advice of these experts and, at the very least, make some decision, preferably to begin construction to protect settlements and other infrastructure?”
Ongoing preparations since 2021
In response, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir outlined the ongoing efforts since the first disturbances on the Reykjanes peninsula. She highlighted the collaboration with local authorities, emergency responders, and the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management in mapping the area and compiling data.
Katrín mentioned that proposals for protective barriers were under review and that recommendations to the government were expected soon: “These proposals have been under review by the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management who plans to make recommendations to the government in the coming days on the appropriate course of action.”
(As noted by RÚV yesterday, when the eruption began at Fagradalsfjall in 2021, a group of experts was established to focus on the protection of critical infrastructure on the Reykjanes Peninsula. This group has been considering possible scenarios based on existing data, with the greatest emphasis being placed on protecting the Svartsengi power plant and the Blue Lagoon.)
Accused the coalition of indecisiveness
Sigmundur Davíð criticised the government for its indecisiveness and the disarray in handling the information related to this issue. He referenced Víðir Reynisson, Head of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, emphasising the urgency of a decision.
Katrín acknowledged the commencement of preliminary work for such projects but noted the current infeasibility of large-scale actions: “We have not yet reached the stage where a formal proposal from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management is in place. However, I expect it to be presented in the next few days, and I can then discuss it in more detail.”
Sigmundur Davíð further inquired if immediate action would follow the receipt of this proposal. Katrín assured that the proposal would undergo thorough examination and expert review before any decision. She concluded by expressing confidence in the coordinated efforts of all parties involved to manage the challenging situation.
“I want to take this opportunity to say that I believe all parties in the system are working in a coordinated manner to address this difficult situation,” Katrín concluded.
Visible damage to Svartsengi Power Plant
As reported by Vísir yesterday, a swarm of earthquakes in the early hours of Thursday, November 9, caused visible damage to roads and infrastructure near Mt. Þorbjörn on the Reykjanes peninsula. The Blue Lagoon was subsequently closed. Cracks formed in the asphalt of Grindarvíkurvegur, the road that leads to the town of Grindavík, and on the walls and floors of the Svartsengi power plant.
“Cracks have appeared widely in floors and walls, and it was clear upon arrival this morning that there was a considerable tremor last night. Monitors have fallen to the floor, and new cracks have appeared in many places,” Kristinn Harðarson, the production manager at HS Orka, told Vísir yesterday.
Prep work for protective barriers underway
Kristinn revealed that HS Orka had initiated preparatory work for the construction of protective barriers: “We are beginning preparations, bringing materials to the site so we can respond quickly if we need to set up protective barriers. We are trying to shorten the response time as much as possible,” Kristinn stated, adding that he hoped that this would ensure uninterrupted and ongoing operations at the power plant in case of an eruption.
Four to six trucks, carrying gravel from a nearby quarry to the power plant, drove into the area yesterday. As noted by Vísir, this gravel could be used for protective barriers or even to cover boreholes and pipelines in the event of an eruption.