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Prepping 101: Doomsday Bunker – Part 2: Best Location, Sturdy Material & Raw Power

Iraq doomsday bunker

Doomsday bunker however is out of reach for many common people unless it is the Government which you will need to ensure the continuation of the government during a natural disaster or war OR you are one of the billionaires who have the money and resources to build your own fancy, high-tech doomsday bunkers. When the US invaded Iraq, the Iraq Government was operating from a bunker. Image source: Twitter

Read these first:-

I was hoping to conclude this post on doomsday bunkers in not more than 2 blog posts but as I research more into it, it is clear that I will need to do it as 3 or more posts.

So what makes an ideal doomsday bunker if one has the money, resources and time, what would be the challenges considering the technology that we have at this point and what we can do perhaps on a smaller, cheaper scale. It will be a good case study assuming that doomsday bunkers will be a necessity one day in the future.

Underground doomsday bunker

Most doomsday bunkers are built underground like this 45-foot-deep, 12 bedroom, 12 bathroom underground bunker that went on sale for USD17.5 million. The bunker also includes 32 acres of land, a private theatre, able to withstand a 20-kiloton nuclear explosion and a 1,000-gallon storage water tank with a water source from a 300-foot-deep well from a nearby aquifer. Image source: Architectural Digest

Bunker Factor 1 – Best Location

Everything starts with getting the right location right for the doomsday bunker.

Just consider that the doomsday bunker needs to withstand natural disasters, possible wars & looting and keep the occupants safe with a self-sustaining facility for a long time. So where would be the best place to start building a doomsday bunker then and which place would not be an ideal place to build a doomsday bunker? What would be the factors to consider?

Takeaway 1: Heavily populated city centers and big cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are not good to be in. If it’s a major city center, and if the military objective is to devastate a country by reducing its population, those places are really not good to be in.

Takeaway 2: Near major critical infrastructure (Military and civilian). Communication hubs, major power generation centers, water and such are notable targets if the military objective was to reduce the infrastructural capability of a nation.

Takeaway 3: Near military installations. Naval bases, shipyards, army installations, etc.

If you follow this logic, then you could come up with your own list and score them accordingly. Even in terms of economics, it would make more sense for a million or a billion dollar bomb to find a target that is strategically important in terms of the economic, political or military value.

Where is the best place to build a bunker? Somewhere not important. Somewhere there are no people. Somewhere that is highly inaccessible.

(Source: Quora)

Personally, I prefer it on a remote hill, surrounded by secondary forest and off-limits to people. The whole hill is fenced off in several security layers of barb wires and a natural barrier to keep the nosy and troublemakers from approaching the key doomsday bunker area. Another reason to build a doomsday bunker on a hill would be this:-

Sea level has risen 8–9 inches (21–24 centimeters) since 1880.

In 2020, global sea level set a new record high—91.3 mm (3.6 inches) above 1993 levels.
The rate of sea level rise is accelerating: it has more than doubled from 0.06 inches (1.4 millimeters) per year throughout most of the twentieth century to 0.14 inches (3.6 millimeters) per year from 2006–2015.

In many locations along the U.S. coastline, high-tide flooding is now 300% to more than 900% more frequent than it was 50 years ago.

Even if the world follows a low greenhouse gas pathway, global sea level will likely rise at least 12 inches (0.3 meters) above 2000 levels by 2100.

If we follow a pathway with high emissions, a worst-case scenario of as much as 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) above 2000 levels by 2100 cannot be ruled out.

(Source: Climate)

Location on higher grounds will reduce the risk of high flooding, will be high enough to place windmills and solar panels for the source of energy and be able to be structured to collect rainwater.

The doomsday bunker itself will be built underground mainly to minimise exposure to the external elements. Bunkers built above ground will need more maintenance than the ones built underground as the ground would have shielded the structure. An underground structure can be kept at a more constant temperature which will minimise the need to have air conditioning or heaters.

doomsday bunker Oppidum

The Oppidum located in the Czech Republic is considered one of the largest bunkers for billionaires and covers 323,000 square feet of the countryside. The largest private living measures 6,780 square feet. Info & image source: CNET

Bunker Factor 2 – Bunker Layout

The doomsday bunker that I would design would be for a long term (for several months or years) occupancy instead of short (a couple of days or weeks) occupancy. In an event of a doomsday event, it is unlikely that things will go back to normal in just a couple of days or even weeks. So long term occupancy should be the first objective of the doomsday bunker.

The internal structure would be made from waterproof, reinforced thick concrete for the main external structure and must be willing to withstand the pressure of the ground. Then a mixture of steel, wood and fireproof foam to be used for the internal structure with insulated wiring and water plumbing is left on the open for ease of access, inspection and maintenance.

The internal spaces are kept cool and not too warm to minimise the need for air-conditioning as confined spaces are usually generated unnecessary heat. At the onset and depending on the availability of space and resources, extra rooms would be built for future use but only a small percentage of the space would be used to minimise the use of electricity and ease of maintenance. However, the extra rooms will come in handy for future expansion namely for farming and storage.

The existing place would be segregated into various key areas namely central control room, living quarters, kitchen & pantries, medical room, water recycling and purification room, air filtration system, waste management room, hydroponic farming rooms, storages, strong room, battery packs storage, etc. It will not be luxurious but it will have enough facilities & amenities to sustain long term occupancy.

Bunk bed doomsday bunker world war

Doomsday bunkers will have bunk beds like this example of a World War 2 German bunk beds in a bunker as they can be used as additional sleeping areas or used as extra storage. Image source: Business Insider.

The centre stage of the doomsday bunker operations takes place at the central control room where we will have all the sensors readings consolidated, images of the CCTVs of the surroundings of the doomsday bunkers and also inside the doomsday bunker if required and also the communication devices are setup. The day starts with all those on duty to meet up at the control centre after their morning meals. The living quarters will have the standard bunk beds and storage for personal items and a centralised area for toilets and bathrooms so that plumbing and water recycling can be done easily. Leakages if any can be controlled easily as well.

There will be one centralised kitchen with cooking stoves with added fire-control system and large dining tables & chairs so that one is able to cook and serve hot meals. However, there are small pantries allocated at strategic places with ready to eat meals (MRE) and water bottles and is located to the food and water storage. These pantries would also be useful in case some of the bunkers are inaccessible during an emergency.

The small medical centre is not complex to do major surgeries but it will have the key medicines and tablets stocked up and is able to handle minor surgeries. It also works as a clean room to do scientific research and testing. It is unlikely that the doomsday bunker occupants will have advanced medical knowledge so a full set of medical guides and books in case we need quick medical references.

The most isolated room would be the waste management room so to avoid any cross-contamination of air and water and the access to this will require one to go through several water-tight, secured doors. One needs to wear a good protective suit when wearing in this room.

Bunker Factor 3 – Energy Source

Doomsday bunker needs electricity to run the lights, the shower, communication devices, water purification system and more. Of course, the use of energy in a doomsday bunker will need to be managed strictly unlike the use at home and connected to the national grid.

For case study purposes, let’s say that a doomsday bunker uses the same amount of electricity that a normal household uses in a day – about 30 kilowatts per hour. That works out to about 900 kilowatts per hour for a month. The question is how to generate a minimum of 40 kilowatts per hour. What are the possible sources of energy generation that can be employed for a doomsday bunker?

Doomsday bunker batteries car battery

A sample of battery storage under testing in Hamburg, Germany for EEV buses using old batteries from Passat GTE plug-in hybrids. Similar chargeable car batteries can be set up to provide a backup source of energy for the doomsday bunker. Info & image source: Insideevs

Source 1 – Batteries

For this, one needs to pack as many as batteries possible which can be used for small devices such as torchlight, LED room lights and portable radio. Batteries if stored properly and under the right temperature can last for years.

Most unused alkaline batteries will last between five and 10 years, while Ni-MH batteries have a shelf life of three to five years of non-use.

Lithium-ion batteries, which power devices like cell phones, have a low self-discharge rate and could keep a partial charge for up to four years before being depleted.

(Source: Sparefoot)

Of course, for doomsday bunkers, we will need to store larger capacity batteries such as car batteries or small power stations that can have 600 watts per hour capacities. These batteries can be stored easily for 2-3 years depending on the storage conditions.

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Source 2 – Solar Panels

In the event of a disaster, the grid will be down and batteries cannot last forever. Thus one needs to look at renewal energy generators namely solar and windmills. Let’s look at solar panels as they will be easier to install and usually works without any issues for a minimum of 10 years.

There are various equations for calculating how many solar panels and the amount of power needed for a household. Here’s a general example:

The average energy needs of a U.S. household is a 6.62-kW solar system to match the 9,000 kWh of average energy usage by U.S. households each year. And, the typical solar panel makes 320 watts of electricity in ideal sunny conditions.

Here’s how many solar panels that equals.

Divide 6.62 kW (the system size) by .320 kW (the wattage per panel) = 20.69—rounded up that’s 21 panels.

Let’s say on a good day, you average 5 hours of direct sunlight. Multiply 5 hours of sunlight x 290 watts from a solar panel = 1,450 watts or roughly 1.5 kilowatt hours per day.

(Source: Sun Run)

So assuming 21 solar panels x 1.5 kilowatts per hour can produce 31.5 kilowatts per hour per day, this will meet the daily consumption of a normal household. The surplus can be stored in solar batteries to be reused when the sun goes down.

Of course, this is not an ideal solution for doomsday bunker due to several factors, namely:-

  • Availability of space for the solar panels WITHOUT being too obvious to the outside world and especially from the above
  • Availability of sunlight to charge the solar panels for a minimum of 5 hours considering that the hill is surrounded by trees
  • Ease of maintenance as one needs to come out of the safety of the bunker and into the elements.

Thus we will consider other energy sources to complement solar energy.

Wind turbine doomsday bunker renewable

Slightly larger wind turbines sit on towers that are as tall as 80 meters (260 feet) and have rotor blades that extend approximately 40 meters (130 feet) long. These turbines can generate 1.8 megawatts of power. Even larger wind turbines can be found perched on towers that stand 240 meters (787 feet) tall have rotor blades more than 162 meters (531 feet) long. These large turbines can generate anywhere from 4.8 to 9.5 megawatts of power. Text & image source: National Geographic

Source 3 – Wind Turbines

Hilly and hillsides would be a great place to install wind turbines which in their basic form is a dynamo driven by the wind. The usage is nothing new and in some countries, they have huge wind turbines that can power a whole city. However, there are several factors to consider

Wind Resource Considerations — If you live in complex terrain, take care in selecting the installation site. If you site your wind turbine on the top of or on the windy side of a hill, for example, you will have more access to prevailing winds than in a gully or on the leeward (sheltered) side of a hill on the same property. You can have varied wind resources within the same property.

In addition to measuring or finding out about the annual wind speeds, you need to know about the prevailing directions of the wind at your site. In addition to geological formations, you need to consider existing obstacles, such as trees, houses, and sheds.

You also need to plan for future obstructions, such as new buildings or trees that have not reached their full height. Your turbine needs to be sited upwind of any buildings and trees, and it needs to be 30 feet above anything within 300 feet.

(Source: Energy.Gov)

A mini portable windmill can generate power between 13 to 15 watts from a wind speed of 11 km/h whilst one designed for house use can generate about 400 watts from a wind speed of 10 km/h and a good size windmills that are usually used in boats that can generate about 3 kilowatts per hour from a wind speed of 11 km/h.

Source 4 – Human Powered Generator

When everything fails, then you can always trust to fall back on human power to power up some low powered devices in a doomsday bunker. And it will not come at additional costs considering that the occupants will still need to exercise and keep themselves busy in a confined doomsday bunker.

There is a problem of scale, however. The treadmill’s maximum output is 200 watts an hour. The average American uses about 28,000 watt-hours a day. The maximum treadmill workout, generating 200 watts for an hour, would save 2.4 cents, assuming an electricity cost of $0.12 a kilowatt-hour, plus the power that would have been used by a motorized machine.

The company’s bikes and elliptical trainers can move up to 250 watts. On the treadmill, a 147-pound person running roughly 8-minute, 20-second miles would put out only 24 watts every 30 minutes, or enough for 4 hours of wifi. A 176-pound person lightly jogging for 20 minutes could power a 60-watt lightbulb long enough to light the room while they’re working out.

(Source: Renewable Energy World)

Assuming one human-powered treadmill powers up 200 watts per hour and occupants takes a turn running on the treadmill to charge up batteries, one can look at a potential combined 1 kilowatt per hour. It is not much but it will be enough to power up a couple of lights for several hours during emergencies.

Source 4 – Others

This is something that can be used together with a waste management system if the wastes are burned for ease of disposal or tied with the solar panels.

A thermoelectric generator (TEG) is an electric device that converts heat energy produced from a heat source directly into electrical energy. This phenomenon is called the Seebeck Effect, named after Thomas Johan Seebeck. These types of generators function similar to heat engines and are less bulky; however they are less efficient than heat engines.

A thermoelectric generator is also known as a Seebeck generator.

(Source: Corrosionpedia)

However, it is said that thermoelectric generator is pretty inefficient unless one can provide a huge difference in temperature and this is why these kinds of generators are used in spacecraft that has small nuclear power. For example, the famous Voyager 1 space probe has three radioisotope thermoelectric generators which generate 470 watts from radioactive decay of plutonium-238.

However, this is just an option in addition to the more reliant course of energy namely solar and wind-generated power.

To be continued in Part 3

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