Memo reveals plans for nuclear bunker


Plans for a purpose-built reinforced concrete bunker in Athlone, Co Westmeath with accommodation for up to 300 persons, where the Government could continue to operate in the event of a nuclear or other emergency, are detailed in secret memoranda released to the National Archives.

"The Integrated National Control Centre (INCC) . . . would be the centre from which the country could be governed (or controlled) in an emergency," says a report of a meeting between the Department of Defence and the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The meeting took place on July 5th, 1968, but the file has only now been released. The bunker was never built although a far more basic facility exists in the basement of Custume Barracks, Athlone, with a maximum estimated capacity of 100 persons. The local authorities also have shelters of varying quality.

The planned INCC was to be located in a "semi-sunken basement" under a Department of Education premises in Athlone. It was to contain an "Operations Rooms, Message Centre, (Broadcasting) Studio and Kitchens", as well as offices, committee rooms and sleeping accommodation.

"It is necessary that the total area of 20,000 square feet be protected against radioactive fallout," a Department of Defence memo states.

"From the point of view of both blast and fallout it is most desirable that there should be no windows," the memo continues.

"Instead it should have a large number of ventilator openings (9 inches by 9 inches) in the wall, near the ceiling. In each case, on the outside, there should be a louvre-type ventilator and on the inside, a hinged or sliding cover for cutting off the entrance of air in the event of radioactive fallout occurring."

There is nothing in the documents about alternative arrangements if the supply of air from outside the basement was cut off. But there was to be considerable use of reinforced concrete "to provide a degree of protection against the effects of blast". The centre would be designed to "withstand the falling loads due to the collapse of the structure over it".

There would be 100,000 gallons of drinking water, "covered in such a way as to prevent radio-active fallout getting into it". But the memo continues: "In order to conserve water the flushing of the W.C.'s will not be permitted in wartime. Chemical closets (5 gallon capacity with liquefying chemical) should therefore be provided . . . Urinals should also be installed as these can also be flushed down in wartime with water already used for washing."

An emergency generator would be installed in case of a general blackout and, "cooking facilities will be provided by cookers with bottled gas cylinders, sufficient for a period of up to 30 days for the needs of up to 300 persons".

In addition to ministers and civil servants there would be 20 senior military advisers from Army headquarters - "all of whom would be armed" - who would liaise with a mobile military corps which was "provisionally earmarked for Mullingar" but could possibly be located nearby in the basement of Athlone's Custume Barracks instead.

Some military and civil personnel might also be located in the basement of the Defence Forces headquarters at Parkgate Street, Dublin.