Preemptive Lava Barriers Proposed in Grindavík Town Hall

Proposals to erect protective lava barriers on the Reykjanes peninsula were introduced at a town hall meeting in Grindavík yesterday. A geophysicist with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management expressed scepticism that the barriers would be situated on the “right side” of a possible eruption.

A familiar pattern

Despite the Icelandic MET Office reporting that no uplift had occurred over the past three to four days in the Svartsengi area on the Reykjanes peninsula, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management held a town hall meeting in Grindavík yesterday.

As of late May, the land around Svartsengi had risen almost five centimetres – likely owing to magma intrusion 4-5km below the surface – and an earthquake swarm had been ongoing, despite no signs of volcanic unrest. These geological events are reminiscent of similar disturbances in the area before the eruption near Fagradalsfjall in 2021. While the Fagradalsfjall eruption did not threaten infrastructure in the area, the current magma intrusion is located underneath a geothermal power plant, and an uncertainty phase is still in effect in the area.

Proposals on protective lava barriers introduced

In addition to professors in geology, the town hall meeting in Grindavík was also attended by police officers and search-and-rescue workers on the Reykjanes peninsula, along with representatives from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, from neighbouring municipalities, and from companies that operate important infrastructure in the area.

There were also a few engineers present, among them Ari Guðmundsson from Verkís, who introduced the proposals of a task force, established in March of last year, entrusted with protecting important infrastructure in the event of an eruption.

Although the task force’s proposals will not be made available to the media prior to review by public administrators, Ari Guðmundsson told RÚV that, among other things, the task force had proposed the erection of preemptive protective barriers.

“That’s what we’ve proposed: the partial erection of protective lava barriers. But these proposals are subject to further review, in regard to environmental impact, e.g., and in regard to just how complete these barriers will be.”

Commenting on this proposal, Björn Oddsson, a geophysicist with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, offered the following caveat: “Given that we have an open area with long fissures, it’s uncertain whether a protective barrier that’s erected prior to an eruption will be situated on the right side of the eruption – or the wrong side.”

“The proposals will be reviewed by the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management,” Ari Explained, “and they’ll decide on the next steps. We also proposed a review of a more extensive area on Reykjanes, stretching as far as Bláfjöll and Hengill, but that’s a much more extensive project.”

“It’s the beginning of a much more comprehensive project that must be undertaken,” Björn agreed.

A “temporary hiatus”

Despite no signs of volcanic unrest, Þorvaldur Þórðarson, professor of geology and volcanology at the University of Iceland, stated that the relative stillness on the peninsula over the past few days should be taken as a “temporary hiatus” as opposed to a sign that geological activity had ceased.

“Obviously, magma is no longer intruding at the former depth, and so there’s no uplift, which means that the immediate threat of an eruption has decreased; there won’t be an eruption any time soon,” Þorvaldur stated.

“Not this summer?” RÚV reporter Hólmfríður Dagný Friðjónsdóttir inquired.

“I wouldn’t think so. I certainly don’t hope so.”

“Without Perpetrators, There’s No Violence”

Violent Crime Task Force

Yesterday, at an open meeting held by the National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, a list of proposals to assist perpetrators of violent crimes was introduced. “Without the offenders, there is no violence,” Eygló Harðardóttir, one of two members of a special task force entrusted with devising the proposals, stated.

Technology to play a key role

In May of last year, the Minister of Social Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason and Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir established a special task force on violent crime. The task force comprised the former Minister of Social Affairs Eygló Harðardóttir and Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir, who introduced their proposals in an open meeting yesterday.

As noted on the government’s website, technology will play a pivotal role in the implementation of the proposals. Among the task force’s recommendations is the continued use of a risk-assessment system (B-Safer/SARA:SV), which the police has adopted to assess the danger of violence in close relationships to mitigate the risk of further crimes on behalf of perpetrators. An app will also be developed for these purposes. The task force further recommended the development of educational material and the provision of motivational phone calls between perpetrators and violence-prevention units, wherein the former are informed of useful resources.

Additionally, the task force suggested the development of a special risk-assessment system of sexual offences among adults. The system would calculate required assistance based on the number and severity of risk factors, which would serve to assist the police in their decision-making regarding the prevention of sexual offences – especially against children.

Furthermore, the task force recommended subsidies to Heimilisfriður (a treatment facility for individuals who have perpetrated domestic violence) and to psychologist Anna Kristín Newton to develop educational material for the website Anna Kristín, in collaboration with her colleagues, is currently preparing to establish an organisation under the heading Taktu skrefið (Take the First Step) to assist individuals in their sexual behaviour and to cease sexual violence.

Trying to break the vicious circle

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, former Minister of Justice Eygló Harðardóttir stated that the task force had endeavoured to devise ways in which the authorities could prevent and more quickly intervene in violent crime. “If we consider the previously available resources, it’s clear that they weren’t sufficient. Without perpetrators, there is no violence; if we don’t have any offenders, we don’t have any victims.”

“It’s this vicious circle that we’re trying to break. The only way to do that is to offer the necessary resources, intervene more quickly, and cooperate. Preventing violence is something that all of us must work together toward,” Eygló stated.