Robert Jackman

The nuclear bunker market is booming

The nuclear bunker market is booming
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As the spectre of nuclear war returns so does another very modern phenomenon: a spike in interest amongst the paranoid rich seeking to procure their own nuclear bunker.

Over in Texas – already home to a vibrant culture of ‘preppers’ who spend their time planning for every shade of apocalypse – one creator of custom shelters, Rising S Bunkers, says it’s had a 700pc increase in interest in the last month. Made from long-lasting plate steel, their bunkers are designed to be buried under the average American yard. Of the five units sold last month, the largest fetched $240,000.

A Rising S Bunker is installed in the US

If you don’t have space for your own bunker – or would rather shelter down amongst like-mined survivalists – there are other options. Self-confessed prepper Larry Hall has spent much of the past two decades turning a decommissioned missile silo in central Kansas into the Survival Condo: a cross between a nuclear shelter and a luxury hotel. The structure was built to withstand a blast 100 times stronger than Nagasaki.

As you might expect, a suite at the Survival Condo isn’t cheap. Half-floor apartments typically fetch $1.5m, while the jewel in Hall’s crown – a two-level, 3600 sq ft penthouse – went for $4.5m. When all the apartments are sold, the condo will be home to 57 different owners paying an annual ground-rent: essentially a timeshare arrangement for the apocalypse.

The Survival Condo, Kansas

While the project has evidently been lucrative, it has required plenty of investment. Indeed Hall claims to have invested $20m of his own money in Survival Condo: including purchasing military-grade air filtration units (designed to supply the structure with de-radiated oxygen after the initial blast), destruction-proof geothermal wells, and numerous backup systems to provide power. Now it's paying off – at least in a business sense.

Anyone tempted to dismiss the bunker rush as American eccentricity should think twice. With the British countryside home to hundreds of semi-abandoned nuclear bunkers – many intended to house members of the Royal Observer Corps in the event of war – there’s been a similar clamour for disaster insurance on this side of the Atlantic too.

The owner of one-such bunker – based in rural Essex and reportedly one of the largest in the country – recently told the Daily Telegraph that, despite operating the bunker as a tourist attraction, he was increasingly receiving emails from individuals looking for something longer term. A much smaller bunker currently on sale in Norfolk received 200 enquiries in three days.

The funny thing is that, back in the eighties, these nuclear shelters weren’t that uncommon. During the Cold War most borough councils had one – typically buried beneath their office car park. After the fall of the Soviet Union, many chose to get rid of them entirely, rather than shelling out for the ongoing running costs.

You have to wonder how cash-strapped councils look back on their decisions now. Given the rush for shelters, most could have presumably fetched a pretty penny by hawking them to private bidders. Like Gordon Brown selling off the gold stocks, it looks like they cashed out at just the wrong time.

How good are these decades-old bunkers anyway? One owner – a Cold War buff from Northern Ireland – gave an impressive-sounding account to his local newspaper. Apparently being in a concrete bunker some 15 feet under-ground offers protection of 5,000/1: meaning that the ground radioactivity can be 5,000 times above the typical background level before you have to worry.

It isn’t just bunkers though. Putin’s maniacal sabre-rattling has also created a Europe-wide rush for iodine tablets, which can help prevent the thyroid from absorbing dangerous radioactivity in the event of the worst. News that the tablets are currently being handed out to Ukrainians living near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant has led to packets flying from the pharmacy shelves in western Europe. Think of them, then, like the face masks of the nuclear crisis – except for, unlike face masks, they're actually backed by strong scientific evidence.

In Belgium, some 30,000 iodine tablets have been handed out by the government to nervous residents, while pharmacies in France, Denmark and Poland have reported selling out. Meanwhile global Google searches on how to order the tablets online are spiking faster than the oil price.

To the hardcore preppers, the sight of normies rushing to buy anti-radiation tablets or old bomb shelters is probably rather pitiful. But it's still a reminder of the power of nightmares when it comes to influencing our behaviour. Once again, it turns out that it isn't just sex that sells, but fear as well. And that madman in the Kremlin has just turbocharged the market.