Information Meeting Held on Potential Eruption Skip to content

Information Meeting Held on Potential Eruption

By Erik Pomrenke

Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management Iceland
Photo: Screenshot – RÚV live broadcast.

A Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management press conference was held today at 15:00 to report on the current situation on the Reykjanes peninsula.

A state of uncertainty has been declared for the Reykjanes peninsula and there are indications that magma has begun flowing faster to the northwest of Mt. Þorbjörn. An eruption in the area could disrupt power production at Svartsengi power station, the largest supplier of power and water to the Reykjanes peninsula, necessitate the evacuation of Grindavík, and affect operations at the Blue Lagoon.

Kristín Jónsdóttir

Kristín Jónsdóttir, the head of natural hazard monitoring at the Icelandic Met Office, stated that some 1300 earthquakes have been recorded on the Reykjanes peninsula during the most recent phase of activity.

She stated that deformation measurements indicate an increased rate of stress accumulation since Friday, November 3. This deformation is likely due to magma accumulation at a depth of about 5 km. The data suggests a more powerful event than what has been observed in the area before.

Earthquake activity on the Reykjanes peninsula is expected to continue due to increased stress in the area.

Kristín stated that although when and where the next eruption will be is impossible to answer, the most likely eruption sites would be to the west and north of Þorbjörn, a mountain on the Reykjanes peninsula between the town of Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon.

Kristinn Harðarson

Kristinn Harðarson, from HS Orka, stated that an eruption in the area could potentially disrupt operations at Svartsengi power station, a critical power station for the region.

Svartsengi is located in the area where some of the most land rise has been detected recently.

Kristinn stated that the current priority is to ensure the safety of the staff. Contingency plans have been created, escape routes defined, gas metres installed, and more.

Operations at the power station have also been organised in such a way as to minimise the amount of staff working there at any time. 

Kristinn also said that in the event of an evacuation, it will be possible to remotely control the power plant.

Páll Erland

Páll Erland from utility company HS Veitur stated that their well-trained staff are prepared to handle situations like the one currently facing Svartsengi.

HS Veitur provides electricity, water, and heating to customers from the Svartsengi geothermal power plant.

In the event that Svartsengi operations are disrupted, other utility companies have offered to support operations on Reykjanes if necessary.

Backup power generators are also being set up in Grindavík, he stated.

Páll emphasizes that in the case of a severe power outage, people might resort to using electric heaters to heat their homes, which would put a significant strain on the power grid. He also stressed the importance of having a fully charged car, as charging may become impossible in a worst-case scenario.

He identified heating as the most critical issue. Around 30,000 residents rely on the heating utility. In a scenario in which people are left without heat, emergency shelters would be necessary.

Fannar Jónasson

Fannar Jónasson, mayor of Grindavík, stressed that coordination and consultation regarding earthquakes on the Reykjanes Peninsula first started four years ago, when volcanic and seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula resumed.

Fannar stated that although the most recent eruptions have not threatened critical infrastructure, we may now be facing a different situation.

He praised the responders and staff of Grindavík, saying that evacuation plans are in place and that experts are doing their very best to prepare residents for what could happen.

He stated there is some fear among the residents of Grindavík and reiterated the importance of solidarity and cooperation. Diverse groups in society must be considered, such as older people and people of foreign origin, and it must be ensured that all members of the community receive reliable information.

Fannar stated that the current emphasis is on protecting Svartsengi.

Fannar also reiterated that preparations began at the first sign of increased activity on Reykjanes, and that they have had 13 days to prepare so far.

Worst-case scenario

In a Q&A session following the briefing, Víðir Reynisson, Director of the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management described the worst-case scenario as one in which an eruption would occur near the Svartsengi power station with little to no warning.

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