War in Ukraine sparks huge demand for nuclear bunkers across Europe

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led homeowners across Europe to rush to protect their safety and security, with many choosing to order the installation of military-grade bunkers for fear of attack. against their homes, or even a nuclear disaster.

A French bunker manufacturer said The National that he had no customers for the product, but that 1,000 customers showed up in the first weeks of the war in Ukraine. The vast majority came from French citizens planning to build fortified private structures to protect themselves and their loved ones in an emergency. One of the triggers was the start of the war when Russian forces captured the Chernobyl power plant on the first day of the invasion, rekindling memories of the 1986 disaster that sent radioactive material through much of the world. ‘Europe.

Mathieu Seranne, founder and director of Artemis Protection, said that after launching his business in January 2021, the business was struggling to take off. Fast forward 13 months and it has been inundated with inquiries from Europeans alarmed at the sudden change in the continent’s security.

“We started from scratch. My business was started over a year ago and we haven’t sold any [bunker] before the start of the war. During the first weeks of the war, we received more than 1,000 requests for quotes,” Mr. Seranne said. The National.

“They weren’t freaked out, really, they were really rational people.

“They weren’t afraid of the bombardments in the gardens. What they feared was that the Russians would take over the nuclear power plants in Ukraine and that worried them. They were really afraid that something would explode.

“What we heard a lot is that they wanted to make an investment, they wanted to make an extension to their house, an extension that would be able to [resist] a bomb, any missile, any chemical leak.

“Even though the war in Ukraine is about Ukraine right now, everyone is concerned about the use of a nuclear weapon.”

While a large proportion of potential customers are French, it has also attracted interest from people in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Poland and Bulgaria.

Russian shelling of Ukrainian towns and villages has forced countless people to live underground for weeks, many with limited access to water and food. But not all households and communities have access to secure underground locations, and many have perished in their own homes.

Mr Seranne said Russia’s assault on Ukraine prompted several construction companies in the former Soviet nation to contact him asking for partnerships. Companies that, until the invasion, only built houses and commercial buildings are now trying to enter the bunker market in an attempt to offer Ukrainians a place, close to home, to hide from the missiles.

“They have no experience [building] bunkers,” Mr. Seranne said. “We will have to share our knowledge, but they are large general construction companies and they know very well what they are doing there.

“What we saw was that people wanted to have something very quickly, not much, just to take shelter for a short time.”

Such was the demand for bunkers among middle-income French households that he introduced an economy bunker to provide them with a more affordable option.

Artemis presented a compact bunker model, which measures three meters x 2.5 meters and costs £125,000 ($156,423). Although not as spacious as the more luxurious bunkers on offer, it does include the basics – a military-grade ventilation system that lets air in while filtering out chemicals, radiation and Covid-19, and an emergency exit.

“If there’s an explosion outside, what happens is the air pressure is going to be very different, similar to if you’re on an airplane and a window breaks, your lungs are going to explode, so we have to have a very pressurized shelter,” Mr. Seranne said.

“We were aiming for the luxury market before and when we received hundreds and hundreds of requests, we saw that people didn’t have that kind of money, so we had to adapt to this type of market.”

Guests can enter the bunker through metal stairs and through a hatch, which is both gas and fireproof.

The steel structures take a few weeks to assemble and are transported to customers for burial in gardens or nearby sites. Mr. Seranne said the process is much shorter than the time it takes to build a concrete structure.

Bunker maker Mathieu Seranne said his company has been inundated with requests for bunkers since the start of the war in Ukraine.  Photo: Artemis Protection

The company also plans to sell multi-room bunkers to customers in the Middle East. These, he claims, make the average structure look like a rabbit hole. Mr Seranne said prices for large complexes amounted to “millions of euros”.

Updated: May 12, 2022, 1:35 p.m.

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Mary I. Bruner