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View Full Version : Need Excuse for Water Pump to be Found in Nuclear Fallout Shelter



mfarraday
11-29-2013, 09:01 AM
Okay, in my novel, there is an underground nuclear bunker, it is basically like a small town. It has a shopping center, gym, communications hub, offices and small apartments, and a restaurant. It is designed to house about a thousand people.

To get to the point, in my story, I need to pare down the population, which starts off in the hundreds (many already wounded from a terrorist bombing.)

I decided a water main break was the most likely scenario for making people decide they must leave, even though it's freezing outside and they think a nuclear war outside has decimated society. Basically my premise is: the power goes out, the temperature drops dramatically, pipes burst and the entire fallout shelter is flooded. The living spaces become unlivable. They have to evacuate.

Then a guy finds a water pump and resolves to pump out all the water. Voila!

But the villain locks almost everyone except his own family and a handful of people outside. They freeze/starve/are irradiated to death.

Where does the pump come from?

For sewer maintenance?

For an underground pool? Those bigwigs, they like the high life, you know.

What is the most plausible explanation? Also, the hero has to shut off the water, though I haven't yet figured out how.

Does a sewage pump sound the most plausible?

Thanks,

M.

ULTRAGOTHA
11-29-2013, 09:17 AM
If they're underground enough to keep them safe in a fallout shelter, the pipes won't freeze. Unless it's constantly well below freezing outside, in which case the permafrost can reach over 300 feet deep.

If you've got a small city under ground, water pumps will be used to move the water from point A to points B, C and D. You'd need really good water recycling or an underground aquifer that isn't getting water from the radiated surface. They might have sump pumps to pump any spills out of the lower areas of the shelter, but where would they pump it to?

Where the heck are they getting all this power? A nuclear reactor? Tapping into geothermal power (in which case, again, no frozen pipes)?

mfarraday
11-29-2013, 09:23 AM
Shoot, seriously? You don't think the pipes would freeze?

Damn. Back to the drawing board, then.

I hadn't even thought where the power was coming from. I was functioning on the premise that they had a small power plant of their own.

Shoot.

mfarraday
11-29-2013, 09:27 AM
I suppose I could have an earthquake shatter a pipe. But that's so cliché...

Nivarion
11-29-2013, 11:21 AM
when you go underground the earth has a lot of insulation power. I like to go cave crawling (spelunking) and many caves are the same temperature in summer as winter. It would have to be very cold outside for a very long time to begin to freeze the underground.

Also, if the pipes are bursting due to freezing, how do they flood the shelter? they're frozen.

If flooding is a constant problem in the area, there could be a pump to the outside to keep the shelter from being flooded in a natural heavy rain. Such a pump would likely be closer to the top.

Such a pump may also exist if there is a subterranean river nearby. Or even connects to the shelter. If the water filters down from a aquifer or through limestone, it could be safe to drink even in a radioactive winter and the shelter could even open into one of the chambers.

A sudden power outage could be feasible. Maybe your character who originally was supposed to pump the area out discovers that the backup power was disconnected and the main was turned off?

kaitie
11-29-2013, 08:56 PM
How long have people been down there? Depending on the area, some buildings are hard to keep water out of in general. I would be shocked if an underground complex didn't have pumps already to keep water out, though, even if it was just a precaution. If any of the building settles over time, it's possible ground water or rain water could start to get in, especially if they're at a low elevation. The designers have probably accommodated for that, but if your villain is trying to get rid of people, maybe he does something himself?

Maybe they already have pumps and he's disabled them and then he breaks a pipe? He knows the area is really safe, but he sets off an alarm anyway and gets people to go out? Though it would have to be a really serious pipe issue to even consider having it flood the whole thing.

I would think fire might be a better bet. It would be dangerous, but if he wants to get rid of people, maybe he tells his family his plan or to stay put no matter what or something, then starts a fire somewhere. Again, though, it would have to be a really big fire to actually convince people to leave. If they're terrified of being above ground, they'll stay and do everything they can to put the fire out, and if it isn't put out, they're would be so much damage it could make the structure unsafe (same for serious flooding, imo).

I can think of a couple of other ideas. What exactly are you looking for? General accident that gets them out and then the bad guy turns bad, or something that he orchestrates? What sort of bunker is it? Is it sealed with some kind of oxygen generator? What about power? Maybe he could turn off the power somehow, which would disrupt all their services, and so on.

thothguard51
11-29-2013, 09:19 PM
Your small underground city fails my acceptability test...

A mall for less than a thousand people?

mfarraday
11-29-2013, 10:28 PM
Your small underground city fails my acceptability test...

A mall for less than a thousand people?

These are the things I've been reading about:



The bunker includes the renovated Missile Warning Center (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Missile_Warning_Center&action=edit&redlink=1)[17] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_Mountain_nuclear_bunker#cite_note-Unveils-17) and prior to the 2006-08 realignment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_Mountain_Division), operations were "conducted at five major centers…the Command Center, Air Warning, Missile Correlation, Operations Intelligence Watch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Operational_Intelligence_Watch_Officer%27 s_Network), and Space Control—by approximately 658 people, including support personnel."[3] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_Mountain_nuclear_bunker#cite_note-GAO2007-3):4 The Weather Support Unit (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Weather_Support_Unit&action=edit&redlink=1) was a major center,[18] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_Mountain_nuclear_bunker#cite_note-CMU-18) and the Unified Space Vault (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Space_Vault) and the Space Control Center (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Space_Control_Center&action=edit&redlink=1) were moved "from Cheyenne Mountain to the Joint Space Operations Center (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Space_Operations_Center) at Vandenberg AFB" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandenberg_Air_Force_Base).[3] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_Mountain_nuclear_bunker#cite_note-GAO2007-3):8

*snip*

Services include a cafeteria,[20] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_Mountain_nuclear_bunker#cite_note-Terdiman-20) medical/dental facility, a two-bed ward, pharmacy, a small base exchange (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_exchange), barber shop,[citation needed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Citation_needed)] and physical fitness center (cf. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cf.) "outside, the TSF").


from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_Mountain_nuclear_bunker

And:



Burlington was built in an old stone quarry and covered 240 acres (1 sq km), and it could accommodate up to 4,000 government officials. What it could not accommodate, however, was their families. Burlington had 60 miles (95 km) of roads, a railway station, hospitals, an underground lake, a water treatment facility, and a pub. It also had a BBC studio from which the Prime Minister would be able to address whatever was left of the population from the safe and cozy confines below the surface. Burlington was kept in working order until 1991 when the Cold War came to a close


from: http://listverse.com/2013/01/22/10-amazing-underground-cities/

mfarraday
11-29-2013, 10:48 PM
How long have people been down there? Depending on the area, some buildings are hard to keep water out of in general. I would be shocked if an underground complex didn't have pumps already to keep water out, though, even if it was just a precaution. If any of the building settles over time, it's possible ground water or rain water could start to get in, especially if they're at a low elevation. The designers have probably accommodated for that, but if your villain is trying to get rid of people, maybe he does something himself?

Maybe they already have pumps and he's disabled them and then he breaks a pipe? He knows the area is really safe, but he sets off an alarm anyway and gets people to go out? Though it would have to be a really serious pipe issue to even consider having it flood the whole thing.

I would think fire might be a better bet. It would be dangerous, but if he wants to get rid of people, maybe he tells his family his plan or to stay put no matter what or something, then starts a fire somewhere. Again, though, it would have to be a really big fire to actually convince people to leave. If they're terrified of being above ground, they'll stay and do everything they can to put the fire out, and if it isn't put out, they're would be so much damage it could make the structure unsafe (same for serious flooding, imo).

I can think of a couple of other ideas. What exactly are you looking for? General accident that gets them out and then the bad guy turns bad, or something that he orchestrates? What sort of bunker is it? Is it sealed with some kind of oxygen generator? What about power? Maybe he could turn off the power somehow, which would disrupt all their services, and so on.

I was planning to have the accident just occur and he takes advantage of it. I originally wanted to do a fire, but I think that's too difficult to get under control again. It's a nuclear fallout bunker, something along the lines of Cheyenne Mountain.

I think just having a water main break occur without the freezing pipes would be all right. Pipes burst sometimes just from being old or from having been unused for a while. When their usage suddenly ramps up after years of inactivity, I think a malfunction would be expected.

asnys
11-29-2013, 11:21 PM
How long have these people been down there? A facility this big will have external radiation monitoring equipment, and be able to tell when it's safe to go outside. In most areas, you'd be able to start leaving the shelter 2-3 weeks after entry.

redfalcon
11-29-2013, 11:37 PM
+1 for any complex underground having sump pumps.

As far as water leaks/breaks, the big gate valves have a way of leaking badly when they are opened/closed after long periods of non use.

Trying to turn off the big valves 3-6" sometimes breaks the pipe thread going into that valve(galvanized pipe).

Getting the water to stop flowing is often harder than getting the water out of the place.

mfarraday
11-29-2013, 11:56 PM
How long have these people been down there? A facility this big will have external radiation monitoring equipment, and be able to tell when it's safe to go outside. In most areas, you'd be able to start leaving the shelter 2-3 weeks after entry.

True, but they stock months'/years' worth of food for a reason. They must be anticipating a need for it.

asnys
11-30-2013, 12:11 AM
True, but they stock months'/years' worth of food for a reason. They must be anticipating a need for it.

Is that actually true? The examples I've studied in detail were never built (hence why information is available on them), but they were intended to remain "buttoned up" for only a few months at most.

Hendo
11-30-2013, 12:28 AM
Well, to actually answer what your post is about... I don't think you'd need an excuse for there to be a water pump. Given the nature and size of your facility then it is completely possible that they have one or several pumps stored just in case there is a flood of some sort. I know plenty of people that have small pumps in their basement just in case their house ever starts taking in water.

Maybe you could try something like... the villain wanted everyone out so he sabotaged the water system and caused the flood after hiding or temporarily disabling the pumps(he could have stolen a key component from them for use after everyone thought they were unfixable) .

cbenoi1
11-30-2013, 12:47 AM
Same question as the one asked in "Red October". How do you evacuate a nuclear sub?

Nuclear... hmmm...

Turns out the radiation badges the crew wore were not working correctly, so everyone believed the sub was emanating radiations and so evacuating the sub was a better solution. The rogue commander was thus able to take command of the sub.

Variants: poison levels, toxic residue levels, bacteriological infestation, etc.

-cb

thothguard51
11-30-2013, 04:31 AM
These are the things I've been reading about:


from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_Mountain_nuclear_bunker

And:



from: http://listverse.com/2013/01/22/10-amazing-underground-cities/

I have no problems with a health clinic, cafteria, commissary, or even an entertainment area for showing films or a library. But a base exchange is far different than a mall, which is what you quoted...

Don't call things what they are not and my believability factor returns...