A visit to Japan’s only nuclear shelter manufacturer【Photos】


Seiji learns the importance of “positive pressure”.

About his recent trip to Hokkaido, our Japanese-speaking reporter Seiji Nakazawa experienced some of the most open landscapes the prefecture has to offer. Today, however, it is going the other way, with visit to Japan’s number one manufacturer for disaster and emergency shelters.

world net the headquarters is in Tokyo, but Seiji paid a visit to the company’s showroom in Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

His guide for the day was none other than the president of the company, Hiroki Nakajima. World Net is the only company in Japan that both designs and installs shelters, and the impetus for their creation came when Nakajima visited Ishinomaki, one of the cities hardest hit by the 2011 Tohoku tsunami.. “Then I wanted to create something that could protect people” Nakajima says the first shelters built by World Net were tsunami shelters.

▼ Hiroki Nakajima

Since then, World Net has expanded its offerings to include earthquake shelters, flood shelters and nuclear sheltersand this is an example of the latter category that Nakajima would show Seiji that day.

“For a fallout shelter, it is extremely important that it can reach positive pressure quickly” Nakajima explained, referring to a condition where the air pressure inside the shelter is higher than the ambient air pressure outside. “You can’t achieve positive pressure unless the shelter is completely sealed, so when positive pressure is present, the inside is shielded from the radioactive materials on the outside.”

“From the time the rocket is launched to where the Japanese government can alert the civilian population, it takes about five minutes and then another five minutes before the rocket hits Japan. So if you can’t achieve positive pressure in that time, given the time it takes to get to the shelter, it doesn’t make sense, which is why the rate at which positive pressure is created is so important.”

It all made sense to Seiji laypeople, but he also couldn’t help but wonder what being in positive pressure space does to your body. Would it put your lungs in a vice, preventing you from breathing? Will it make your eyes explode?

Both curious and terrified, he decided to find out.

When entering the shelter, there was about as much floor space as a king-size mattress would take up. At 165 centimeters (65 inches) tall, Seiji had enough space to stand upright, and Nakajima informed him that World Net could make shelters of various sizes upon customer request.

Looking to the left, Seiji saw an air conditioner and a TV. The TV is probably there to watch news and government announcements, but it would also probably come in handy if Seiji wanted to pass the time watching some anime until it was safe to leave the shelter. The hostel has its own power supply, but you can also connect it to the mains and even connect a LAN cable to access the internet.

On the opposite wall was some machinery with a serious cyberpunk aesthetic. This, explained Nakajima, is overpressure device.

“Let’s Turn It On” Nakajima said as he closed the door and activated the device. Seiji, still concerned about what effect the extra air pressure would have on his body, started to think about all the things he still wanted to do in life, if he survived.

Without warning, the ceiling fan began to spin.

“OK, that’s it, we have positive pressure” Nakajima explained nonchalantly.

Wait what? Seiji felt no different. He could still breathe, and none of his eyelids had burst.

“I feel pretty normal, don’t I?” Nakajima said, obviously knowing what Seiji was thinking. “It’s only three percent higher than the outside air pressure, so you might feel the extra pressure in your ears the most, but even then it’s less noticeable than going into a motorway tunnel.”

▼ It was comfortable enough that if he had had a laptop with him, Seiji could have written his report directly in the shelter.

How much does a hostel like this cost? The one Seiji tried, which is listed as a shelter for two, costs 8.8 million yen (US$63,300), but a single-person shelter of the same type would cost 6.8 million yen. Another factor is the thickness of the walls. The shelter that Nakajima showed him has walls that are 3.2 millimeters (0.13 in) thick. At the other end of the spectrum, walls with a maximum thickness of 36 millimeters have been calculated to be effective against an impact five kilometers away, and Nakajima is confident that even a tank hitting the walls won’t break them.

For a two-person shelter with a thickness of 36 millimeters, you will pay about 12.8 million yen. Seiji couldn’t help but think that for that amount of money he could buy a Porsche, but if he ever gets a bullet in his direction, he’ll probably want to be into something more powerful than a sports car at the time.

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