paper money worthless after nuclear attack

Corridor to Bank of Canada Vault, Level 100, The Diefenbunker, Ottawa 2010

© Leslie Hossack

In December 1961, Canada’s Central Emergency Government Headquarters, aka the Diefenbunker, became operational. During the Cold War, in the event of a nuclear attack, designated government officials would report to Canada’s flagship bunker in Carp. It contained over 300 rooms and was designed to shelter 535 individuals. Built secretly between 1959 and 1961 just outside of Ottawa, the Diefenbunker was nicknamed after Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker.

The Diefenbunker is an underground fallout shelter constructed on four levels. The photograph above shows a wide corridor located on the lowest level; it connects the main bunker to the Bank of Canada Vault, which is behind the viewer. The vault would have stored up to 800 tons of gold reserves. During a nuclear alert, the gold would have been transported to the bunker in 80 trucks from the main bank vaults in downtown Ottawa. If Canada had suffered a nuclear attack, paper money would have been worthless, and so would contaminated gold; so it was critical to protect the national gold reserve from radiation. As is evident from the figures painted on the walls, this corridor was also used as a fitness area.

The Diefenbunker was shut down in 1994, after 33 years of operation. It is now Canada’s Cold War Museum and a National Historic Site. For more information, please visit Canada’s Cold War Museum and Parks Canada.

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