- Switzerland, already home to more nuclear bunkers per capita than any other nation, has decided to pad its lead, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Mountainous and politically neutral, Switzerland has more than 300,000 bunkers, enough to shelter all 7.6 million Swiss with one million places to spare. But two decades after the end of the Cold War, the Swiss government says it needs more.
A 1978 law requires every new building to have a bomb shelter, and even as the fears of Armageddon that spurred the original law are now a distant memory, the Swiss have been adding 50,000 new spots a year. As recently as a few months ago, however, it looked like the Swiss were ready to stop digging.
"Those bunkers are of no use," says Pierre-Yves Gentil, spokesman for the Swiss Socialist Party. "We have no enemies. The prospect of a nuclear war in Europe has faded away. We have more than enough bunkers."
Gentil's party and other leftist politicians in Switzerland have mounted a 15-year campaign to abolish the law, and appeared to have victory in their grasp this spring: On March 9, Switzerland's lower house approved a motion to kill the old law. But two days later, an earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex and spread radioactive fallout across northeastern Japan. The leftists' push foundered.
In May, Switzerland's government decided to close the country's nuclear power plants by 2034. Even so, earlier this month, Swiss Parliament also decided the nation did in fact need more radiation-resistant refuges.
Countries including Sweden, South Korea and Singapore share an affinity for fallout shelters, though some, including Finland, have scaled back the duty to build new ones.
Before Fukushima, even the security-obsessed Swiss had begun to rethink the need for so many hideouts. While leftist politicians dismissed them as Cold War relics, construction companies complained that the obligation to build them pushes up the cost of residential buildings.
The government argues that the bunkers could come in handy in case of a terrorist dirty bomb, natural disaster or chemical leak.