NATO Bunker 7

You can sign up for the occasional Elements newsletter, follow Mark David on Twitter @authorMarkDavid. You can read more about his fiction on The Elements homepage or here on medium.


It is important today to remember that despite all the detail of information gathered and analyzed, the CIA and other intelligence agencies failed to foresee the end of the Cold War before it all unraveled in 1989 with the opening of the Wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. They got it wrong then, just as they got it wrong recently in the run-up to the war in Iraq. In the end, the intricacies of the game tend to obscure clear facts on the ground, and the prism of politics distorts and corrupts.

A series of meetings in August and September 1986 culminated in the Reykjavík Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev on October 11, 1986. Both agreed in principle to remove INF systems from Europe and to equal global limits of 100 INF missile warheads. Gorbachev also proposed deeper and more fundamental changes in the strategic relationship. More detailed negotiations extended throughout 1987, aided by the decision of Chancellor Helmut Kohl in August to unilaterally remove the joint U.S.-West German Pershing IA systems. The treaty text was finally agreed in September 1987.

However, the monuments of the cold war still live with us, even if lying silent and unseen deep beneath the ground. Amongst these is NATO Bunker 7, the most expensive building project in Denmark was shut down and sealed for a hundred years in 2013. In 1980, the bunker cost 600 million Danish crowns to build including technical equipment. This corresponds to 1.6 billion crowns today. With its own waterworks, electricity and oxygen supply as well as 100 cubic meters of diesel under the slab NATO’s bunker in Finderup west of Viborg is built to withstand almost anything any war could throw at it. The bunker was closed in July 2013 and forms the basis for a story of the imagination, considering what scenarios could have been played out at such a place in a time of the crisis of the cold war.

July 1 2013 at 0600 Zulu was the day the bunker’s monitors were turned off in the Finderup-bunker’s operations room, as sentence for the operation of Denmark’s probably safest, most expensive and most mystifying building complex was being passed. The 4,500 m2 large bunker 10 km west of Viborg was mothballed after only having been in operation 24/7, 365 days a year since 1984. A period of 19 years with occasional needs to close the two entrances and air locks, taking care of themselves for up to 30 days if Denmark was to be exposed to an attack with tactical nuclear weapons or chemical gases. The entrances have since been plugged with concrete and filled with soil and leveled. Under the plan, the bunker will be unavailable for at least the next 100 years. Why? The answer is always the same in the end, money.

It’s locations like these that make a story, and one of the reasons why I spend so much time researching context and location. Click on the link here to see the bunker plans in detail.

Two years of planning

NATO Bunker 7 was the former air operations center for Northern Europe called ‘Combined Air Operations Center Finderup’ staffed by 200 people. Plugging the bunker was one of many options, only made viable by the local municipality who accepted that the bunker could remain environmentally safe and empty but ‘operational’ inside, furniture left standing in the sealed, three-storey bunker.

If the personell were to be locked inside in a time of war, what would it have felt like being cut off from the outside world, surrounded by sterile white walls and steel blast doors, plastic cups of coffee and plastic CD’s as the world disintegrated around you? For a start, the bunker has only two outputs: a steep staircase with 98 steps and a kind of freight elevator, which is just a chute with a very limited capacity, which requires two-man operation where many objects cannot be removed at all because of their size. So if any James Bond type of character was able to infiltrate such a place, the idea of a dramatic escape would be far from the reality if imprisonment and isolation.

Within the system are three big diesel generators, ventilation systems and waterworks, among wastewater treatment plants, water works, ventilation systems, cooling systems and UPS, as power failure ensures continued operation of the vital servers that monitor the total air traffic in Northern Europe’s airspace, all of which keep this place running, or did, a world of it’s own devoid of anything reminding anyone within of the natural world without.

And this place was built to last: During the time of operation not one circuit had been changed during the almost 30 years the control system had been in operation. The ventilation system can ingest and clean from 10,000 down to 2,000 m3 of air in a war or crisis situation, depending on how many we are and what the situation is outside. In two seconds an active carbon filter could be activated if the bunker was to be attacked by poison gas, the bunker able to keep operating for a month with gas filters on also with its own oxygen supply. A gas attack during the cold war? That’s not a scenario we hear about very often & for a fiction author it raises a lot of possibility.

30 days without supplies

Bunker 7 are generally arranged after a 30/90-day scenario, which was used during the Cold War. It meant that in principle the bunker could be kept in operation without resupply from outside for 30 days and 90 days with planned limited resupply.

Location

Bunker 7 is located in ‘inter alia geological conditions’ in the Finderup terrain, which determined the location of the high-security bunker that was primarily built as a NATO war headquarters, called Static War Headquarters. It was built to withstand a near-hit by a nuclear bomb, the liklihood one bunker would be targetted remote in a time of war, soviet plans revealing how surface infrastructure and cities were the most common types of targets.

“There are very few places in Denmark where you can dig a hole of 40 meters without encountering groundwater. You can here, and also there is a huge aquifer underneath.”

Construction

When construction began in 1977 35,000 m3 of reinforced concrete was used for bunker construction and a several meters thick protective layer between the bunker’s roof and ground level to protect against air attacks. It used five times as much reinforced concrete in the protective layer than was used even for the bunker itself, making it resistant to the worst atmospheric disasters. In addition, the bunker was both EMP- and ground shock-proof and is therefore very suitable as a central server for secure storage of mission-critical IT servers. The bunker is packed inside a two-meter thick ‘Leca-pad’ made of burnt expanded clay called leca that means the Bunker 7 can withstand direct bombing. It had the side effect that it the bunker never needed heating, only cooling.

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You can sign up for the occasional Elements newsletter, follow Mark David on Twitter @authorMarkDavid. You can read more about his fiction on The Elements homepage or here on medium.