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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac: Nuclear Tourism

Air Date: Week of

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This week we have facts about an atomic tourist attraction. April marks the start of tours to a nuclear bunker in West Virginia, once meant to house the U.S. Congress in case of nuclear attack.


ROSS: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I'm Pippin Ross.

[MUSIC: Vera Lynn "We'll Meet Again" DR. STRANGELOVE]

ROSS: It's finally April when spring really begins. More daylight, less cold. The start of baseball. The end of March madness. And of course, the kickoff of atomic tourism season. It all takes place 700 feet below the swanky Greenbrier Resort in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, behind 25 ton doors, past miles of concrete corridors, in a bunker created to house the U.S. Congress in case of nuclear war. Dubbed "Project Casper," the bunker was built for 14 million dollars in the 1950's and remained hush-hush until The Washington Post exposed the hideaway in a 1992 article.

Bunker door(Photo courtesy of The Greenbrier)

Though the Greenbrier is a five-star resort, the bunker is no paradise. It's equipped with decontamination showers, an isolation chamber, and a pathological waste incinerator. The facility also contains mini-replicas of the House and Senate Chambers, even down to the oil paintings of the founding fathers on the walls. And, to communicate with the outside world, a television studio complete with a faux Washington, D.C. backdrop.
Bunker room(Photo courtesy of The Greenbrier)

Today, the bunker is rented for tours and special events. James Bond parties, we're told, are a favorite theme. About 20 such gatherings happen each year in the subterranean wonderland, featuring 1950's costumes, big bands, dancing and cocktails. Care for another martini, Dr. Strangelove? I'll take mine shaken, not stirred. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.




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