Saturday, June 26, 2010

ABC Nightline: Underground "Noah's Ark" bunkers

On Friday, June 25, ABC Nightline (with Terry Moran and David Wright) presented a seven minute short film on or underground “Noah’s Ark” or doomsday bunkers being built privately in rural areas around the country, often by the same engineers who build them for governments. They are built to be experienced as  like cruise ship luxury spaces.

Pricing varies. Some charge $50000 per family or $25000 per additional child. Some sell space at about $1 per floor or level. Typically a bunker has 10-15 levels underground. I recall a science fiction novel named “Level 7” about this concept back in the 1960s.

The shelter shown in the Nightline report apparently was being built somewhere in the Mojave Desert in California (maybe near "Zzyxx Road" perhaps? ["It's Academic"]. Other attractive areas would include Nevada, Arizona, and the western Great Plains.

The report showed comical excerpts from the “Duck and Cover” clips of the 1950s when nuclear war was feared.

The report also showed a father and son preparing to purchase a unit, with a “boy scout be prepared” mentality. The report mentioned the movies “The Road”, “The Book of Eli”, and the “Mad Max” Australian movies of the late 1970s.

Doomsday could occur because of terrorism, natural cataclysm (the 2012 effect), destruction of the environment, or the breakdown of a fiat money economy.  Another interesting possibility could be EMP (electromagnetic pulse, as from a high altitude nuclear blast doing little damage at ground level); don't know if that would affect an underground facility, which could be protected by Faraday-like devices.

The company was also building shelters in China and Russia.

I visited the Greenbrier Resort shelter (now no longer in contingent use) in White Sulphur Springs W Va. in August 1997. There appears to be a smaller similar facility on Mount Weather in the Va Blue Ridge between Routes 7 and 50, which can be driven by but not visited.

My novel manuscript imagines an "Academy" in west Texas to re-educate people for "apocalypse" (set up as a right wing plot with religious and possibly extraterrestrial connections), and a related underground bunker in Arizona, on the Mogollon rim, which was envisioned as able to take in refugees when the final pandemic comes. However, I have several locations related the effort, and the difficulty in a novel is maintaining the same level of tension in plotting at each location. The different characters may be in different locations.

Wikipedia attribution link for Mt. Weather photo (actually taken by Homeland Security Department)

Below, personal picture (2005) along route 601 near Mt. Weather.

Monday, June 21, 2010

CBS 60 Minutes reviews raid on Pelindaba nuclear plant in South Africa; brazen attempt to steal HEU

On June 15 or so, CBS 60 Minutes updated a story about a break-in on a nuclear facility, the Pelindaba, in South Africa on Nov. 7, 2007, originally carried on CBS Nov. 28, 2008.

The video, set in dry countryside that looks a lot like inland southern California, documented how saboteurs defeated the electric fence and disabled the current to it.

The highly enriched uranium is itself not very radioactive and be carried away to other sites to manufacture crude nuclear weapons. The thieves did not succeed this time in stealing any HEU. But the attempt was brazen, somewhat an "Oceans 11" "smash and grab job" with nefarious planning.

CBS also has a link to a May 3 story by Dan Farber, “Nuclear attack a ticking time bomb, experts say”, with link here. The average young American has a statistically significant chance of being affected by a nuclear exchange during his lifetime, even dying from it. For example, the article says “In a 2005 survey of 85 national security experts, 60 percent of the respondents assessed the odds of a nuclear attack within 10 years at between 10 and 50 percent, with an average of 29.2 percent. Nearly 80 percent of respondents expected the attack to originate with a terrorist group.”

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Attribution link for Wikipedia Hiroshima picture

Friday, June 11, 2010

NatGeo offers brief video on EMP threat (from high altitude nuclear blast)

MSN Bing gave a link this evening to a NatGeo 4 minute video “Could Electromagnetic Pulse Make U.S. Dark?” The URL is here. There was no embed code.

Dr. Richard Muller explains how EMP works: a high altitude nuclear blast causes no blast effect on the ground but emits gamma rays that set up electric currents in the atmosphere that fry all the electronics on the ground.

But the US Air Force has planes designed to withstand EMP. But civilization would go back to the dark ages.

Conservatives have been concerned that rogue states could give Al Qaeda or a similar group the ability to launch an EMP rocket from the high seas of a US coast. (Theoretically an extraterrestrial alien civilization could use one to cripple us and there would be nothing we could do.) Smaller EMP devices non-nuclear in nature based on microwaves have been built by the military and have limited use even today in Iraq and Afghanistan to disable mines and weapons (the "Hurt Locker" effect). (Example from US Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen MD shown below.)

Since National Geographic offers this video, there is some evidence that concern about the EMP problem is moving away fromt he realms of the extreme "Right". 

But the EMP threat is one more reason to rein in on loose nuclear material, as discussed in the previous posting about “The Unit” show.

Wikipedia attribution link for US Army map diagram here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

"The Unit" epsiode rerun examines speculative underground sale of nuclear materials from Russia to Iran

Some channels, including UPN in Washington, re-aired an important episode of David Mamet’s “The Unit” tonight, called simply “Security”.

The team gumshoes for evidence that Russia is selling nuclear materials to Iran. That would be controversial because one of the most important strategic steps in preventing a nuclear detonation from a rogue state or a non-state group (like Al Qaeda) or perhaps special cells put at work by countries like Iran or North Korea, would be to reign in on all the nuclear raw materials in the former Soviet Union. This is the aim of the group “Nuclear Threat Initiative.”

In the episode, one of the team members is not welcome because of his trips to Israel, suggesting his religion; there is a scene where a wife tells a husband that she expects to mean more to him than his “hobby”.

This particular series does bring up significant potential homeland security issues. I also discussed it on my TV reviews blog on Nov. 27, 2009.

“The CyMan” and have a four-minute film on YouTube “The Nuclear Threat is from Israel, not Iran”.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of nuclear waste canister

Thursday, June 03, 2010

CNN: "Toxic Towns USA" examines PVC, dioxin contamination in a small Louisiana town

On Wednesday June 2 CNN featured Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosting a home hour documentary “Toxic Towns USA” as part of “Toxic America”, focusing on Mossville, Louisiana, an unincorporated and largely African-American community near Lake Charles, LA in Calcasieu Parish. The town does not show up in the World Book Encyclopedia or in the index of standard road atlases.

The May 27 entry on CNN’s own blogger site here describes the show. Much of it focuses on the activities of chemist Wilma Subra and long term resident Dorothy Felix, to expose the risks to residents from nearby petrochemical plants (as from companies such as Sasol), especially from dioxins and polyvinvylchlorides used in plastics, which we depend on. Wilma was faced with threats and her office (a long distance from Mossville) was shot at. Both women and Gupta tried to get in to see LA governor Bobby Jindal and Louisiana agencies, but were kept out. The EPA Superfund may eventually help with a cleanup.

The inadequacy of the supervision from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSRD) of the Centers for Disease Control was mentioned (link ).

Dioxin is associated with the defoliant Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam war. The CNN report focused on long term cancer and health risk due to slow accumulation of dioxin or PVC’s in various internal organs (including the liver and pancreas), which shows up in areas that have been contaminated by industry or government.

Mossville was mentioned in a 2002 documentary film “Blue Vinvyl” which I have ordered from Netflix.

Another town affected by dioxin contamination was Times Beach, MO (less than 20 miles S of St; Louis), which was relocated and bulldozed in 1983.  So petrochemcial or environmental contamination can have catastrophic consequences for a town.

It's not clear that the current oil spill in the Gulf could force evacuation of small coastal bayou towns, beyond destroying the fishing and tourist economies of these towns. The draining of the marsh has made it more vulnerable not only to hurricanes but also to environmental pollution.

Wikipedia attribution link for polyvinylchloride diagram.

See also my coordinated review "Blue Vinvyl" (2002) on the movies blog on June 10, 2010.