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[Table] IAmA: We Are a Team Working to Restore a Cold War Nuclear Bunker; The Only One of It's Type Left In Canada! AMA!

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Date: 2013-07-27
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Questions Answers
I went to visit the bunker last year. When I was there, I was informed that it would never again be fully operational and even if it was, it could not withstand the blast from even the smallest nuclear bomb. So my question is, is this true? Also, if it is true, why go through the trouble of making it functional if it cannot be used for anything other than tourism? I am not sure if you were here when we had control of it or not. Regardless, to answer your questions, the facility was never designed for a direct hit. It was designed for a near miss attack. This means that if a nuclear strike were to happen within 1 1/2 miles of the facility, it would survive with almost no damage inside.
As for full operations, we are already at over 80% functionality. Some of the functions necessary for fallout like radiation scrubbers for our air systems, are not a high priority at this stage of revitalization. However, we have gotten many systems back up and working we never thought would be working again. We are 100% confident this facility could become a fully functional fallout facility with just a little more work. Without any eminent threat of being nuked any time though, we are not fully focused on those items right now.
Would like to note that this facility does have EMP shielding that would withstand any solar radiation bursts. Which is a more likely scenario this facility will provide protection against.
Will it still be available for tourists? It was one of my favourite things from my Ottawa trip last year. Also, are you keeping all the vintage shenanigans that were there? Now that you mention Ottawa, I should note that this facility is another Diefenbunker, but the condition of it is very different. It's size is also smaller.
We are not likely going to allow continued tourist as some of our planned operations require security.
If by vintage shenanigans you mean like the control systems and boilers, and generators, the answer is yes and no. Some will be kept, and others will be updated. For example, we have plans to develop solar thermal solutions that will replace our boilers. Other systems that are still functional that we can interface with our new systems we will continue to work on. For example, we recently interfaced the old temperature sensors into a new digital display as shown in this youtube video: Link to www.youtube.com
To be fair, it could just be a fridge from the forties. Well we have some pretty big veggie and meat lockers in the kitchen. Feeding 350 people took a fair amount of food.
Who the hell would put debert nova Scotia on a nuke to do list? Is there a military base there? Debert became a military base back during WWII. It was the staging ground for final training for Canadian forces before they took off the take down the Nazis. Its geographic location made it central for the atlantic region, and its distance from a more likely target (Halifax boat yard) made it ideal. The base now has been decommissioned though.
Can I reserve my room for the war? I have large amounts of caps saved up and can offer you cooking skills. When caps become dollars sure.
Do the many systems include the Canadian nuclear arsenal ?...actually thinking about it why does Canada even have bunkers who would nuke canada? even if they survived they would probably say thank you...eh. Canada played a much more frontal role in past wars. We have not found a nuke button yet though. Canada's primary weapon of choice has been polite kindness I agree.
Oh man, I'm going to be in nova scotia in a few weeks. I would love to see this place.. but even though I'm going to be fairly close I don't think it's in the travel plans :( Nuts. August 17th 18th is the time to be here if you decide to change your mind.
We are not likely going to allow continued tourist as some of our planned operations require security. Data centre... The data center portion of the building is actually a building within the building. The Samson Node, as it was referred to, is a giant copper capsule basically which keeps all forms of EMP and radio signals from being able to penetrate it. At one time it handled NATO communications data. That space is small compared to the rest of the facility though, so we need to put the rest of the place to good use. Given the trends in server computing it will provide all the space and power we require.
Wouldn't solar heaters be effected by any change in the albedo? (nuclear winter scenario) Also, did you know n-acetylcysteine and many other antioxidants are radioprotective, Also, did you see the 2010 film "The Road" which features a bomb shelter scene? Likely they might. But until then they are going to do wonders for our operational costs. No, did not. Yes, I recall the bomb shelter scene, and this place is a whole lot bigger.
Are you going to preserve at least some of, for instance, the boilers even after you've replaced them? Absolutely. Many of them are just going to be more trouble than its worth to remove. We are not desperate for space in here, so keeping them won't be an issue.
As you can see, we have actually gone to a fair amount of effort to try and integrate the old systems into new ones that we can make more efficient while preserving the old analog look and feel of most of the controls. Our most recent triumph was with the fresh air dampener system. By controling a dial they now respond. You can see the youtube video here: Link to www.youtube.com
What's gonna happen on the 17th and 18th?? More public tours fundraising for the Debert Military Museum. You are welcome to them!
You said you won't care for the public later on but you want people to come and give you money now? Don't know how you equate that to not caring for the public. I don't get that either.
How much has it cost since you started? We are up to about 45,000 so far...
Bottlecaps? Or NCR Dollars? How about Bitcoin?
So you lose it all if the previous owner wins the lawsuit? Correct.
Nah Bitcoin won't work post-apo. The network would be down... Still be up here! Perhaps should keep all your bitcoins here.
Can you elaborate a bit on this please? All of the information surrounding this is at www.savethebunker.com. A bit of a long read, but elaborate definitely!
If you've got a Bitcoin client up and running and it stays current right up to the apocalypse... Then you could reboot the network to its last-known-good state, once the lights come back on. And anyone who had a surviving digital wallet or a paper wallet would be able to recover his/her money as though nothing had happened. The question is: who would be willing to use Bitcoin as money if an EMP knocks out most computers? Humm.. so wouldn't it make bitcoins a sort of commodity then that are rare? Humm.. those that have working computers might actually become like exchanges until people get their own computers.
In the case of currency, it is a bad thing to be rare. Bitcoins are not collectibles - without currency value, a digital bitcoin isn't worth the storage space at any cost of hardware. Fair enough, we go to bottlecaps. :)
Whats your favorite thing in your job? There are several of us on the team so I'll give you a few of our responses to this one.
Isaac: The history behind every door.
Justin (Electronics Tech): working with the vintage technology and power generating plant.
Colton: Being a part of the history of this place.
Isn't this the first line in every zombie movie ever? I umm.. errr umm.. well.. umm..
I visited this place on my grade 8 trip (7-8 years ago) and had a blast! (No pun intended) The tour guide had said that they used to store gold bars there. Is that true? They sure would have stored gold bars inside the bunker. There are two vaults, one on each floor. The larger one on the top floor is the Bank of Canada vault. The 1300lb steel doors for the vaults were actually removed and left to sit there while the bunker was being decommissioned. We have installed the Bank of Canada vault door back onto it's hinges, and it is operational again. There is a super small safe inside of the Bank of Canada vault that could have been used for gold - or plutonium (Considering it was super expensive back in the day). Sadly we do not have the combination to that safe, and there is no way to get it open; it was designed to directly withstand a nuclear blast.
I'll try and find a photo of the small safe tonight.
Can the County be sued for the costs related to their unwillingness to grant the deed as required by law? They are aware of the risk. All of the decisions are being dictated by county lawyers who advise the county. We are now facing more legal costs, and more court time than is necessary. How lawyers could advise to go to court and drag this out for months and get paid more in the process is really surprising. Oh wait, that makes perfect sense.
How lawyers could advise to go to court and drag this out for months. The legal strategy could be to simply wear you down until you can't afford it any more. A win by deeper pockets, rather than a legal victory in a court room. You could be right. After getting my first legal bill we are starting to consider fund raising options to fight the battle. Our next court date is October 17th. We are planning to do another update on save the bunker later today. Right now there are tours coming through the bunker.
consider fund raising options. While it's privately owned, the spirit here is not really one of pure capitalism. Just trying to do something that is worthy of a place like this.
Why would anyone fund your private business? You stated no tours and that you will be using it for data centers ect? Also as far as funding goes, there is always investors. Though the owner has not entered into any agreements with several parties who have expressed interest.
Just trying to do something that is worthy of a place like this. Like "data centers"? The data center portion only makes up a small part of the operations we plan here.
Every "operation" you listed is for profit and NOT related to fallout shelter, cold war, history ect. What exactly is the "worthy" part? As mentioned in another thread, not all plans are being publicly disclosed, and some cannot be discussed due to non-disclosures.
Though I don't know how much profit there is in renewable energy research.
I thought there was another Diefenbunker in Ottawa? I visited it in highschool and it seemed pretty cool, I thought it was also a cold war era nuclear shelter? Yep, the main Diefenbunker is in Ottawa. It is a four story bunker, almost double the size of the one we have down here. The biggest difference between the two, is that we were classified as only a provincial emergency government headquarters. And in that respect, it's the last running privately owned provincial shelter.
Yes, that was a head quarters bunker. Besides that one, there were six other regional operation centers (ROCs). We are the only one that is left. All others have be 'decommissioned' in one form or another.
Was there ever one out west, in BC or AB? I know Dief the Chief didn't spend much time out here. Yes there was. BC had one in Camp Nanaimo, and Albert had one out in Penhold. They were all pretty geographically diverse.
Is it cool down there? Yes, it tends to stay cool. Heating it takes extraordinary amounts of fuel from the boiler. However, it never goes below 48 degrees due to the geo-thermal effect of the structure.
Ha. I mean is it very interesting to be down there? I've always wanted to see a cold war bunker. Thanks anyway. The reality of Cold War sets in when you see all the preparation they put into trying to save lives if the nukes ever did launch.
Wait what? -48? Celcius? About 9 degrees Celsius. Cold but not frozen.
What's the most interesting thing you found down there? The blueprints have been fun, but we keep finding paper clippings and full papers from the 1960s that were interesting to read. Back then a paper cost 6 cents, and was a much thicker quality.
Do you ever feel that your employers may have a REASON other then superstition for buying an old nuclear war shelter? The owner seems pretty straight forward. Being a Baha'i, he seems to have a pretty positive outlook on the future. No idea what other REASON you might be referring to. Care to elaborate?
If Hollywood movies taught me anything, it's that people who buy cold war complexes are always some sort of supervillain. Did he ever ask you things like "hmm, do you think the power system could be modified to feed a 1 terawatt deathray?" Umm.. he did ask about fresnel lens. Should I be worried?
I know this might sound a little far fetched but I once heard that there was a fallout bunker somewhere in Alberta that the Hells Angels had been using for large grow operations, do you think this is true? Actually not far from what happened! Someone else posted a link to that story. Might be part of why we are the last ones standing. Guess nobody has anything to worry from a Baha'i in control of a bunker. :P.
When we are sure you are all in there, we will seal it up from the outside. We are a lot of things, but not hippies I assure you.
Is it dangerous? Is there possibly any radiation or any harmful materials in the bunker? It was designed as a fallout shelter, not as a nuke silo. So there are no dangerous radiation materials here other than some very small samples that were used to calibrate radiation sensors. Your microwave is more dangerous than those. Environment Canada did a test on air quality in here back in 2006 and they determined the air in here was actually more clean than outside. Fun fact, the bunker only requires 1% of outside air to remain breathable for its denizens inside.
Any problems you ran into right away? First problem was getting power going. Breakers require a 24v charge in order to hold supply. All the batteries in the place were dead. With the help of someone who used to work at the bunker when the military ran it we were able to get it up and running again. The moment power came on the first system to fire up was the compressor for the pneumatic systems and wow was it loud. We then had to turn our attention to that system right away because it had not been maintained properly.
What was up with the pneumatics? The pneumatic pressure from the compressor was completely off from where it needed to be according to the military helper. The compressor itself had about 2 gallons of water removed from its tanks. Once we got the proper pressure going all the sensors and readouts of the various controls started to work. Well, not all. Many had been disabled, mangled, or needing repair.
What about the Diefenbunker in Carp, Ontario? That's our brother from another mother.
But, you said that the one where you work is the only one of its type in Canada in the title. How is this one in Nova Scotia different from the one in Carp? This is a ROC, Carp is an HQ. This one is about half the size of Carp.
The one in Carp is a museum now. I live right near it, if you live around it too you should definitely check it out! We are planning a visit soon actually.
Is this part of the Dharma Initiative? Not that I am aware of. There might be an opportunity for it though.
Electrical engineer and cold war historian, here. First off, nice facility! Any chance you could post more pictures of the bunker's control monitoring switchboard (the one your standing behind in your picture)? I'm interested in comparing to what I've seen in US installations. Also, are you keeping those awesome GE switchboard meters or going digital? We like the analog of it all. We have more picture on our facebook page. We will have it all interface to a network eventually so that we can control systems from our Galaxy Tabs.
You should make a video detailing how you operate the bunker with modern software -- using tablets for that sort of stuff is definitely really interesting but I imagine if you're not careful with network access it could be really dangerous. Yes security is top priority.
I don't know if this has been asked, but what is the "frame" made of? How thick are the doors and walls? How do you deal with negative air pressure, or do you? Plumbing? Communications? Cellular signals? Source of outside water, purification? So many questions. 3 foot concrete covered in nearly 3 feet of earth. Building runs in a positive air pressure when handlers are operating. Currently two fiber links. Cellular dies after you come in. Dedicated well pumps in well houses provide all the water to the facility both domestic and cooling. Purification is done through a treatment process which we plan to update.
In the event of the apocalypse, can I take shelter with you? No you cannot. Security was mentioned earlier. However, opportunities for leasing space may come up. Interest in this is questionable though and we may not pursue it.
How many people can the bunker hold? The bunker was designed for 350 people to survive. Most would have been government, and some military. Sorry civilians and women, you lose! Yes, only women in the original plans for the bunker were the Premier and the Commanders secretaries. Remember this was the 60s.
Ha ha. You're marketing it TO the nut bars. Aware of that, just that once we get lumped in, there goes all possibilities of being taken seriously in every other sector.
You're already at risk of that with the current activities... Turning your hobby into a living is some people's idea of success! Haha.. I suppose. Running a bunker takes a lot of Benjamins.
Do you think that, in the event of a nuclear war, these bunkers would have done much help to the initial survivors in the long run? Yes. Eight years of engineering went into building this and other Diefenbunker facilities. These were designed for near miss scenarios. When fully operational with trained staff, this facility would have absolutely been able to operate for a sustained period of time in the event of fallout.
Were any of you alive during the Cold War and if so was it terrifying basically being trapped between the two superpowers? I mean in the event of a nuclear war essentially all their nukes would be flying over Canada airspace. No, all of us are younger than that. Though there are still many others who live around here who are ex-military who lived through it.
Ah you guys posted on Airsoft a few weeks ago. This will be an Airsoft site correct? Yes, we had a game a few weeks ago that was a hit. CQB Airsoft is one activity we have going on weekends here at present. It is only one of several things going on here. Thus why it is called a 'Complex'.
How much will it cost to visit? Right now for this weekend, we are having tours between 10AM and 2PM both today and tomorrow. Tours cost 15$, and are run by the Debert Military Museum (Link to www.facebook.com) We will be running airsoft games almost every weekend, with some incredible missle launch and bomb props that we are working on. Tickets for the airsoft games usually run around 25$. Come on down! (This may be the last time that tours are run here because of security issues.)
Tours are going on right now as a fund raiser for the Debert Military Museum. Tickets are $15 for adults, ages 4-12 half price, and under 4 free. Another tour happening tomorrow, and then another weekend in August 17 18th weekend.
Sorry if its a stupid question, I saw it on /airsoft that someone was restoring/using a bunker for an airsoft field? Is that you guys? I imagine bunkers aren't very common. Yes, that is us.
No way, I was just reading about this place last night! No way, I was just replying to another post about the movie that was done here! :)
I was wondering, how do you handle air quality? CFS Carp has an active system I think, but that's a bigger place. If you were to just leave everything off, would you run out of air? CFS Carp had a modern system installed, where we have all original. If you leave everything off, you can still breath, but then you start to get a lot of mold.
, did you get paid for the usage in that recent movie (forgot the title, something about nukes)? Either way, you should try to get some film makers as contacts in the future :) That low budget film was very low budget, and what we got out of it was mega small. We were just happy to help out, and maybe just maybe other better offers might come along.
Have you ever played Fallout? No, no time for games when we got a bunker to revitalize.
What would you consider airsoft then? Just asking... We run the games, we don't play them.
Could this also withstand a zombie apocalypse? Yes, it is built for biological fallout as well.
How does that facility compare to Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs? This facility used to communicate with Cheyenne Mountain. Compare? Well, we got Maple Syrup.. case closed.
Why? Why not?
Serious question: what is the weird capitalization in the title? Why do it in the first place? Why isn't "a" and "of" capitalized but "in" is? The guy that started this already left. Wish I knew. I am going to call sleep deprivation. He had not slept in about 30 hours. We lose track of time in the bunker.
This is so incredibly interesting. I just looked through each photo on Facebook and every video on YouTube. I would love to be a part of that, you all are really fortunate. Question(s): Do you or have you slept at the bunker? Ghosts? What's the wierdest thing you've found in the netherbelly of the beast? Justin here, I just woke up from having a nap in the quarters we have set up. I , and some of the other volunteers, pulled an all nighter getting things ready for the tours today. I can't say there are any ghosts yet. But I do hear strange noises from time to time so its hard to say. As for the weirdest thing? A rather dark and eccentric artist used to stay here... so I'll give you the top three...
Are you saying that there was a ball pit in the bunker? And are you also saying that you removed said balls from the ball pit? Also, excellent work restoring all of that ancient equipment. That's a noteworthy accomplishment. Pat yourself on the back for me? Would not call it a pit. They choose to take the Lieutenant Commanders office and fill it with those balls along with the dead cafe. Then put a dramatic blue light on it.
Weird. The previous owners sound quite... I don't know... self-righteous? Maybe I'm garnering something different from your posts and videos, but there just seems to be a lot of neglect and lack of care, and it seems like it would stem from owners that are in the business for the wrong reason. We try not to talk the previous owner down, however the evidence does speak for itself.
In the Diefenbunker, we heard about a farmer out west who bought a bunker for $1 from the government and then was in talks to sell it to some bikers.. So the gvt bought it back (at more than a buck) and back-filled it with concrete. I thought the same fate happened to all remaining bunkers. How did the Debert bunker survive, and what is stopping your group from entertaining a future offer from a criminal enterprise? Only God knows how it survived. The owner is a Baha'i, he has no such interests. His God stops him from doing that I guess you could say.
Is it really worth saving something because it is one of a kind? Is there any real historical significance other than its a nuke bunker? Yes it is. Yes it is a direct link to the Cold War era. An era where humanity almost destroyed itself. A point in time where people built things like this out of fear of the future instead of hope.
Will you guys actually actually one day show us the inside of the massive water tank? I was rather sad hat we did not get to see the inside. We still have work to do on the sensor array in there and we do have to do maintenance, so yes, maybe one day.
Restoring cold war bunker. What do you know that we don't?!!?!?!?!? Perhaps that military build these things with overkill?
Who would they figure would hang out there in case Debert was bombed? And how is this diefenbunker different than, say the diefenbunker in Carp, Ontario? This Diefenbunker is a ROC, while CARP is a HQ. Otherwise they are identical except for the fact that this one is half the size.
There is a decommissioned diefenbunker in my town. I've been told they are a nightmare of asbestos was the reason they were shut down. Is the one you're working on any worse then your average 1960's building in terms of it or other hazards? That is not the reason they were shut down. Back in the 80s the DND undertook and extensive asbestos remediation program. In that, they eliminated all the dangerous asbestos, and left what was not hazardous. There are still fire-boards, and asbestos floor tiles as well as insulated pipes. We have plans to eventually remove them all, even though they pose no hazard, it is likely going to be necessary eventually with the changing standards.
I remember reading about the Diefenbunker when I did a report on Canada's involvement in the cold war in grade 12. is it classified as a heritage site these days? Carp is, but this facility did not qualify for historical protection due to lack of interest a number of years ago. Petition was attempted, but not enough love.
I'm 15 and from Ottawa, I never heard the whole story of the Diefenbunker. How does it go? If you google Diefenbunker you will find a lot. To make it simple though, Diefenbunkers are a series of bunkers that were commissioned by Prime Minster Diefenbaker back in the 1950s during the Cold War Missile Crises.
ARPANET Interesting question. No, there was never any ARPANET operations here. ARPANET never made its way here. It was quite popular in the US back in its day though.
I've been to the Bunker in Debert. It's really cool! Are banks still storing information there now that you guys are doing the full restoration, or have you guys gotten rid of the server hosting side of it? Banks were never storing information here. Sorry you were mislead. However, we are working on making it a functional data center that will be fully managed.
Weird, I could have sworn that they had active servers that were cooled by a water source? Maybe someone was messing with me. If by active you mean turned on so that pretty lights appear on server boxes, then yes there were. The node does have 3 very old chillers that do use water for a cooling source, however, they are not functional at present, nor have they been since the 90s. Servers were there, but as noted, no bank transactions were ever done in there. It is likely someone was messing with you.
Didn't some crazy old motherfucker own it for 2012? Since the current owner is not a crazy old motherfucker, we will have to say yes.
What is the average temperature inside the bunker? During the summer it usually stays around 65F. In the winter it goes no lower than 48F.
I was going to ask why if you're Canadian you keep saying your temps in Fahrenheit, but then I realized all of the instrumentation you'd be reading off would be pre-metric switch. Then I googled the conversion. 65F = 18.33C. 48F = 8.88C. Correct. :)
Any and all of your responses and official documents should be in metric, particularly if you want to be taken seriously as a Canadian heritage site and not confuse people. Skip the miles and oF. Note that the era this place was built in did not use the metric system. All of our gauges and readouts are in gallons and in Fahrenheit, so we are giving it to you like we get it. Sorry if our history offends your modern metric sensibility. We struggle with it here too. I would image most people who worked here could covert everything in their head as quickly as they read it.
Also a fun fact.. when the bunker was built, the 'official' flag of Canada as you know it today, did not exist. We still have an original flag from pre 1965. Note this place was officially commissioned in 1964, so it used to use the old red duster also called the Red Ensign for the national flag. Maple leaf didn't come in till after 1965.
So with all this in mind, I hope you can take our responses seriously. :)
Last updated: 2013-07-31 16:19 UTC
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