China Tests Impact Of Nuclear Bunker-Busting Weapons. Research shows vulnerability of Underground Facilities. Current Safety Standards for Nuclear Bunkers Obsolete?. Chinese researchers claim that defence facilities built at extreme depths may not be as safe as previously thought. The researchers found engineers who built these bunkers serverely underestimated the actual impact of nuclear weapons.
China is trying to understand the impact of nuclear bunger- busting weapons and learn how they damage the bunkers. Nuclear-safe bunkers are designated to protect occupants from radioactive debris or fallout resulting from a nuclear explosion. Many of these bunkers were built as civil-defense measures during the Cold-war era.
China Says Nuclear – Safe Bunkers No Longer Safe
In the Past, shelters buried several hundred metres deep were rated nuclear-proof with major nuclear powers showing interest in Bunker- busting weapons, China is testing the limits of Nuclear-safe bunkers. China has built a new research facility to simulate an attack by nuclear bunker- busting weapons, as per the South China Morning Post. Even tunnels that are 2 kilometers deep are not safe, as per Li Jie, a lead project scientist with the Army Engineering University of PLA. In one test, a simulated tunnel almost crumbled due to impacts equalling five consecutive strikes by earth-penetrating nuclear weapons.
What Are Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons?
An Earth – Penetrating weapon (EPW) is designed to hit the earth at high speed and penetrate into the ground before exploding. Such weapons can be delivered by short-range missiles or aircraft, and are intended primarilly to attack underground targets. These targets may house command centers, ammunition and other sophisticated systems indispensable to fighting a war. During the 1991 Gulf War, the US used bunker-buster weapons to attack underground military facilities in Iraq.
Most ground- penetrating weapons could not reach a depth beyond 40 meters, as per previous research. However, the rapid advancement in earth-penetrating weapons suggests that the existing safety standards may be outdated. China reportedly found that destruction using the latest weapons could reach three to 10 times deeper underground than previously thought. The researchers claim that a tactical nuclear warhead could release total energy of up to 1,000 times produced by the weapon itself.
This can cause irreparable damage to infrastructure far from the detonation site. Chinese researchers claim these nuclear weapons can be delivered by hypersonic missiles to evade defense systems and hit the target. The new Chinese tests may become a concern for all the major powers using underground military fortifications. They also assume significance amid Russia’s war on Ukraine and president Putin’s decision to put Nuclear Forces on high alert. Residential bunker manufacturers in the US and abroad have seen an increase in inquiries and orders recently, as per reports.
The Safest Bunkers No Longer Safe?
If the Chinese tests are proven right, the safest bunkers, including Russia’s doomsday shelter and US’ safest bunkers can be destroyed. The Cheyenne Mountain Complex was labelled the ”most Secure Installation in the world” by the US military. The complex is surrounded by granite that was more than 500 metres (1,600 feet0 thick. In the Ural Mountains, the Russian Government’s ‘Doomsday shelter’ was 300 metres deep Similarly, China has built its Joint Battle Command Centre which is about 2 kilometres underground west of Beijing.
The New findings by Chinese researchers have raised questions on a common theory used to design most nuclear-proof bunkers. Nuclear bomb shocks were thought to propagate into the earth like waves in water, diminishing anergy as distance increased. However, the Chinese research has revealed that shock waves might ”jump” from one area to another. This may allow the destructive force to go further than previously anticipated.