The Broader picture: Nuclear waste

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The Independent Culture
WHAT do you do with a defunct pounds 2bn Anti-Nuclear-Bio-Chemical Doomsday Survival Centre? Before East and West Germany were reunited in 1990, each had its own governmental nuclear shelter, but neither was found suitable for the new common leadership. Erich Honecker's East German bunker, "Objekt 5000" in Prenden, near Berlin, did not meet modern standards and was closed down soon after unification. Marienthal (shown), West Germany's underground VIP lounge, was considered too far from Berlin, the seat of the new government, and was put up for sale.

A Second World War tunnel 312m underground, which was converted into a bunker after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Marienthal was equipped to see 3,000 civil servants through a nuclear holocaust - enough tins of goulash and cabbage for 30 days' seclusion. It was hardly a luxury retreat. Only the Chancellor and the President were allocated private bedrooms; and theirs were pretty Spartan, furnished only with metal-framed hospital beds (see bottom left; also shown are a sealed exit, top left; the planning room, top centre; the kitchen, bottom centre; and the medical room, bottom right). If the worst had happened, this last relic of the Old World Order would have become a unique showcase of functional German office design of the Sixties and Seventies: no fripperies on board this subterranean Ark, only thousands of rooms and many miles of signposted corridors.

Last year the German government flirted with the idea of selling the bunker for a nominal sum to anyone who could dream up a good use for it. After weeding the applicants, 16 would-be buyers remained (one suggestion was to turn the bunker into a Cold War museum; another, into a techno club). But none of these proposals was deemed practicable, and the federal authorities have now made the decision to seal the bunker for ever: in official terms, to "disconnect" Marienthal from the surrounding vineyards.

It is ironic that a Communist country should be the only beneficiary of the decision to abandon the bunker: all of the mattresses, including the Chancellor's, were sent to Cuba as humanitarian aid.