Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of Feb. 19, 2016

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Tourism, sea ice projects top new environmental grants  
Nearly 6.2 million kroner has been awarded to a total of 22 projects in the latest round of grants from the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund. The largest grant is 675,000 kroner for a nature information center being established as a pilot project by Svalbard Museum. The University Center in Svalbard will get 650,000 kroner for a project measuring the sea ice and other data in Isfjorden. Other noteworthy grants include 485,000 kroner for Store Norske to assess tourism possibilities in the abandoned Mine 6, and 500,000 kroner to the Norwegian Veterinary Institute to study the presence and potential danger to humans of tapeworms in the archipelago. A total of 52 applicants sought grants from the fund, which awards them twice a year. “There was a decline in the number of applications and we saw that some of them applied again after their improved previous applications,” said Morten Rund, head of the fund’s board of directors.

SvatSat gets 550M contract, plans long-term expansion  
Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) has signed a 550-million-kroner contract with a European weather service that will help expand the station and its long-term future, according to officials. Eumetsat will invest in three new antennas on Platåfjellet and receive data from KSAT’s Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat) until 2042. Among the major expansion projects planned is a large solar energy installation to reduce SvalSat’s costs and environmental impact. SvalSat currently has about 40 antennas and provides about 97 percent of its data to more than 100 customers aboard.

Drunk driver takes rental car from pub, leaves it in riverbed
A rental car taken from a parking lot outside a pub by an intoxicated driver was found Tuesday morning in the riverbed next to the pedestrian bridge at Vannledningsdalen, according to The Governor of Svalbard. “It was a foreign tourist,” said Police Chief Lt. Arve Johnsen. “He has accepted a fine in the incident.”