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Swiss cutting back on nuclear fallout shelters

Meritxell Mir · 1 Dec 2011, 12:23

Published: 01 Dec 2011 17:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Dec 2011 12:23 GMT+01:00

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Starting in 2012, only residential buildings with more than 38 apartments will be required to have fallout shelters in their basements, the Swiss government said in a statement.

The change is significant, since until now any building with more than eight apartments was forced to include an area to protect residents from nuclear war.

To compensate for the coming shortfall, all new bunkers will have to be capable of housing at least 25 people each.

Nuclear bunkers in private homes are one of the peculiarities that have defined Switzerland for over half a century. It is said to be the only country in the world with the capacity to shelter almost all of its 7.8 million population.

The country is currently home to some 300,000 nuclear refuges in private homes, schools and hospitals. Additionally, there are 2,500 public fallout shelters, some of which can hold hundreds of even thousands of people. In total, there is enough protection for more than 95 percent of the population, according to official data.

The change in the law approved by the government on Thursday was first suggested by the Council of States in June, in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

Prior to the nuclear crisis sparked by the March disaster, the discussion had focused on whether to abolish the home bunker requirement completely and instead build shelters only in hospitals.

Switzerland’s system of emergency shelters was created in the 1960s, at the height of the paranoid Cold War era, amid fears of nuclear war between East and West.

Many bunkers are now used as storage space, and one was even converted into "the world's first no-star hotel". The Null Stern Hotel in Teufen closed for business in June 2010 but remains open as a museum.

Story continues below…

In 2005, the then member of parliament Pierre Kohler presented an initiative to abolish the law that made the construction of nuclear bunkers mandatory in private homes on the grounds that these “relics of other times” made housing more expensive.

After studying his petition, the Federal Council rejected it arguing that these constructions were still useful outside of a war context, since they could also be used as safe havens from chemical accidents, natural disasters, or a terrorist attack using nuclear weapons.

Meritxell Mir (news@thelocal.ch)

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Your comments about this article

2011-12-15 07:03:40 by sunnchilde
This is bizarre. I had no idea the Swiss were so twitchy. Have you thought about this? Are you really sure you want to survive a nuclear war? Now, I know "staying alive" sounds nice, but have you thought about it? In even a moderate release of nuclear weapons, the entire world will be poisoned. Unprotected animals will die. The water will be toxic. The air will be toxic. Nuclear fallout will mask or even blot-out the sun for years. Photosynthesis itself may cease. The whole food chain will collapse. Oh, and then there's my favorite part - the radiation. Lots of it. Do you even realize how it will feel to die slowly from radiation poisoning? To watch all of your family, friends, children also dieing around you? YOU may still be alive for a time, in your little bunker, but the world around you will be a smoking wreck. Are you SURE you want to survive to see of that, only to then die yourself a few weeks or months later? Slowly. Are you sure?
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