Can be used as an office or wine cellar? The government is promoting the use of “nuclear shelters” and their capabilities and prices | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Can be used as an office or wine cellar? The government is promoting the use of “nuclear shelters” and their capabilities and prices

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Interior of the anchor housing shelter. There are two doors. The inner door is thick and airtight.

Nuclear shelters are attracting attention due to heightened awareness of crises such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea’s missile threat, and the Taiwan contingency. The government clearly stated its policy on shelter development in three security-related documents approved by the Cabinet last December. The Ministry of Defense is reportedly moving toward a policy of designing Self-Defense Forces facilities to be used as underground shelters for local residents in its maintenance plan for the next five years.

Currently, the nuclear shelter penetration rate in Japan is only 0.02%. This is far behind Israel and Switzerland, where the installation of shelters is required by law and the penetration rate is 100%, as well as the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom, where the penetration rate was between 82% and 67% according to 2002 data. Nuclear shelters installed in Seoul, South Korea, and Taiwan are said to have a capacity of more than three times the population. While countries around the world are promoting the installation of nuclear shelters on a national scale, in Japan, only a few rich people are secretly installing them. Furthermore, Japan does not have its own standard for building nuclear shelters. Many of the “nuclear shelters” on the market today do not meet Western standards.

Even in Japan, the number of people interested in nuclear shelters is increasing. Kazumi Yoshiyama, president of Anchor Housing Corporation, headquartered in Kawasaki, says , “The day after the invasion of Ukraine last February, we had a lot of inquiries. Inquiries are still increasing, not only from Japan but also from India, Malaysia, and other countries.

Although many people have heard of “nuclear shelters,” few actually know what they are. Mr. Yoshiyama immediately showed us the inside of the shelter. The company used to import them from the U.S., but began producing them domestically last year.

We make products that meet the standards used at U.S. military bases,” he said. Imported ones cost a fortune to transport, and sometimes the welding is incomplete and there are gaps. They think it doesn’t matter because the other side will fill in the gaps anyway.

Going down the stairs, you will see a thick iron door like you would see on a ship. When you open the door and enter, you see a black machine the size of a gas water heater, with two ducts extending from it to the ceiling.

It is an air purifier. This is the heart of the shelter. It turns the outside air contaminated by radioactive materials into safe air. When a bomb falls, the ventilation openings close due to changes in air pressure and open after a certain amount of time. It is powered by electricity, but even in the absence of electricity, it can be manually powered by electricity.”

Unfortunately, this cannot be photographed. The inside of the shelter is said to be 10 square meters, but it feels surprisingly spacious. This shelter has a staircase inside the enclosure, but if the staircase were attached to the outside, it would be quite spacious. There are two bunk beds, a toilet, and a kitchen in the room. The room is equipped with two bunk beds, a toilet, and a kitchen, and could be used as a normal work space.

Some people use it as a work space, to practice musical instruments, or as a mah-jongg room. The walls and floor are bare here, but if you put up wall coverings, it will look like a normal room. It’s also good for a wine cellar because the temperature is constant.”

Of course, the room has all the functions of an emergency shelter. It can be used as a shelter during disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons, or as an isolation room during pandemics. It can also be used as a safe because it does not burn in a fire. While nuclear shelters are generally designed for people to live in them for two weeks, Yoshiyama says his goal is to make them more comfortable.

The toilets are usually put in a bag and left there, but we have introduced composting to make it easier to dispose of the waste. The power source is solar, but even if that is not enough, an emergency generator pond can be used to power lights, radios, and computers for two weeks. We have a precedent of drawing water from the ground, but it would be better to stockpile enough water for two weeks along with food. We also have plenty of storage space for this purpose.

Shelters are buried by digging 5m deep and building a foundation so that the roof part is 1m deep from the ground surface. Currently available shelters include ground-mounted and indoor-mounted types, but Mr. Yoshiyama says that burying the shelter underground is the key point.

The emergency power supply does not have enough power to run an air conditioner,” he said. If installed above ground, the temperature inside the shelter reaches 40-50°C even in normal summer heat, and it will be even hotter in the heat of a bomb drop. In that respect, if it’s underground, we can keep the temperature at a constant level both in summer and winter.”

The price of the shelter, including installation, is said to be 20-30 million yen, a price that is out of reach for the average person, although it may be affordable to those who can afford to build a 200-300 million yen mansion with a swimming pool.

But the price is out of reach for the average person,” he says. There are cases of people living in townhouses installing them in their second homes in the suburbs, and even in the city center, there are people who have bought vacant lots next to their homes for shelters.

In many countries with advanced nuclear shelters, the government subsidizes the installation of such shelters. If such a system is established, “ready-built houses with shelters” may become available for sale at affordable prices in the future. But for now, safety can only be bought with money in this serious world.

The bed can also be used as a work space if the bed is removed and a folding desk is taken out.
Shape when used as a bed. This shelter can be used for up to 4 people with 2 bunk beds x 2.
A view from the lower bunk beds. In the center is the kitchen, the space closed by curtains is the toilet, and behind it is the work space shown in the photo above.
Stockpile space under the stairs. In addition to the emergency power pond, protective clothing and helmets for outdoor work are also stored.
Shelter burial work
Overall view of the shelter. In the foreground are Mr. Yoshiyama (right) and Osamu Suzuki of Tsukasa Kogyosho Co.
  • PHOTO Shinji Hamasaki

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