Nuclear Fallout Shelters: The New Second Home
The idea of the world suddenly going up in smoke and the fear that thought generates can be a powerful motivator. That may be the main reason demand for underground doomsday fallout shelters has grown into a surprisingly active part of an otherwise weak construction sector. These dwellings are designed to keep people housed for up to 5 years, and protected (fortified) against surface-level catastrophes like nuclear attacks, biohazard events, or even tsunamis.
In the forefront are companies like Vicino (offering partial ownerships) and Radius Engineering (Terrell, Texas) which build shelters with capacities to accommodate between 10 and 2,000 adults. Within each shelter, whether large or small, there are provisions for power, food, water, radiation detection, and filtered air. Shelters such as these cost between $400,000 and $41 million, though Vicino plans selling spaces at $50,000 each.
Elements of a Survivable Shelter
There are few points to consider while choosing a shelter. These are:
i. Air filtration facilities.
ii. Food, water, medical and power supplies.
iii. Waste disposal.
iv. Surveillance and defense.
v. Geiger counter / radiation detection.
vi. Emergency exit with locking facility and ladder.
vii. Lockable air valves to ensure a total cut-off from outside environmental conditions.
Materials and Construction
Shelters offer different levels of protection. There are blast and radioactive fallout to shield against, and a proper shelter must also be able to resist an initial heat flash; flammable materials must be minimized. If a nuclear explosion happens within 10 miles, the shelter may have to withstand a 2,000 mph blast wave and substantial following overpressure - walls must be dense and thick. Protection from physical and thermal forces is as important as protection from blast radiation and radioactive particulates, otherwise known as radioactive fallout.
The ability to measure external air quality, particularly the presence of ionizing radiation is critical to determine when it is safe to leave the dwelling. Geiger counters with remote detection capability, portable radiation meters, or detachable detection paddles are particularly useful. Dwelling inhabitants must be especially alert to Gamma rays since they are the type of nuclear radiation most able to penetrate solid materials.
In that context, materials with higher densities are necessary to reduce the intensity of ionizing radiations. For example, a concrete slab of 2.2 inches reduces a radiation’s intensity by half. An 8.8 inch concrete slab would bring down the radiation to one-sixteenth of its original intensity.
So whether you want to go for cement blocks and stones or after poured, reinforced concrete in steel is going to be determined by your proximity to the radiations (or, explosion’s source). The nearer it is, more should be the magnitude of the strength and support provided by the materials; one must also take into account the soil deposits over it and the chances for a rain and/or a snow.
Protection on a Budget
Those on a tight budget may want to consider a wood-framed underground shelter; around 10 feet wide with support posts along its center every 4 or 5 feet. Of course, it won’t be the same as a fully reinforced one, but they can just as easily be fitted with a Geiger counter or radiation monitor, bio-chemical air and water filtration systems and concrete-filled steel blast doors for secure entrance/exit and emergency escape.