When a nuclear firestorm engulfed the world in 2029, those who caused it, the politicians, military officials, along with some scientists and engineers, retreated deep into a large, underground bunker. Now they have to stay.

Due to an error with their radiation-sensors, they believe nuclear winter completely sterilized the entire region they were in, and do remain in their bunker. For 230 years. By that point, successive generations of bunker dwellers are born, to continue on life underground.

Here’s my question: these people will be almost entirely self-contained (their oxygen coming from ventilators, water recycled, and etc) but what jobs/tasks will these bunker dwellers need to perform to keep their subterranean civilization afloat? What’s jobs/tasks would be most vital to maintaining it?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Administrative managers, agricultural workers, building workers, cleaners and helpers, clerical support workers, drivers and mobile plant operators, electrical workers, health professionals, information and communication technology professionals, legal, social and cultural professionals, legislators, machine operators, personal services workers, personal care workers, production and specialized services managers, refuse workers, sales workers, science and engineering professionals, senior officials, soldiers and military officers, street sellers, teaching professionals, ... And all are vital. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 20 '20 at 7:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Too broad! Not to mention without some form of euthanasia, impossible (you can't permit growth or you need some way to inject resources. Can't have a closed system and inject resources.) And to add to @AlexP's list... baby sitters, burger flippers, dancers/entertainers.... $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 20 '20 at 15:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Here is the full list: International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-08), published by the International Labour Office. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 20 '20 at 15:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Was the bunker designed to remain autonomous for such a long time (230 years), or the supply of whatever it needs is much shorter, and people have to do their best to improvise? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Aug 20 '20 at 16:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH: Please do. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 20 '20 at 16:56

You need to

  1. Maintain the air supply including removing the carbon dioxide
  2. Maintain the water supply including keeping it clean
  3. Maintain the food supply including recycling all organic material
  4. Provide sufficient clothing and shelter to keep warm
  5. Keep the health care system going. The population might be too small to maintain some diseases but non-contagious diseases and health problems will arise.
  6. Energy supply to keep this all going. Almost certainly nuclear power

If you are avoiding all contact with the outside world, you need to recycle as if you were on a spaceship. This means they will need to maintain a highly technical system with many redundancies. Keeping this up is the main task to stay alive.

  • $\begingroup$ In addition to the excellent list of supply: Safe disposal of polluted air (smoke, soot), polluted water and sewage, trash. compost, and 230 years of corpses...all without contaminating the clean supply. And recycling, of course. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Aug 20 '20 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ #4, is there a risk of going without shelter in an underground bunker? Isn't everywhere you go sheltered by definition? $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Aug 21 '20 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ @cowlinator Warming a small area is much easier than warming a large one, so it may be crucial. $\endgroup$ – Mary Aug 21 '20 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I understand. So it's not actually about shelter, it's about heat. $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Aug 21 '20 at 1:15

A basic maslow hierarchy of needs would probably answer most of that. The most fundamental need we have are for food, water, warmth, rest.

  • Food - Farmers, bio-engineers or whatever else you need to run whatever machine you use to produce food.
  • Water and warmth - Engineers to keep pumps, filters etc. running that keeps the water/air flowing and clean.

Secondly comes the supply to keep the above running, stuff like electricity, fuel, fertilizer etc.

Second level is for security and safety, so here we have some kind of police as well as management to keep everyone running in the same direction.

After this is the stuff that makes life worth living, but they aren't an immediate thread to peoples lives.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ In a closed environment, the equally critical jobs are automated equipment maintenance, which depend on repair/machine shop maintenance, which depend on tool and component manufacturing, which depend on raw material recycling.... $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 20 '20 at 17:09

In addition to what other people said, you would need people who trace lineage (can be anything from DNA labs and DNA comparison to low-tech birth records) and enforce specific marriage/breeding rules.

This is absolutely necessary if your original population is rather small and comprises random individuals not selected for genetic health. While the bunker dwellers might not go very technical about this, they should be familiar with potential risks of inbreeding (because we are familiar with them).

  • $\begingroup$ Good point, but it isn't likely to reach a critical point in 230 years. If ignored, your people may be noticing the effects, though, depending on the starting population size. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Aug 21 '20 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on the original population size and genetic pool. If there were several people with genetic defects or anomalies or some mutation due to radiation exposure on top of a higher probability of genetic defects associated with older parents (these are not commoners, these are people in power who tend to be older), the risk of problems is much higher. The results potentially can be seen in 230 years. I also want to bring to your attention that the OP states they need to 'maintain an underground society indefinitely' and that 230 years do not constitute the time limit for this project. $\endgroup$ – Otkin Aug 21 '20 at 3:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin: They start letting in new people around 230 years after $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Aug 21 '20 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ @DTCooper Thank you for clarification. Are there any visible mutations in newcomers? If this is the case or if the original bunker inhabitants were concerned with possible mutations caused by radiation, my suggestion still stands. $\endgroup$ – Otkin Aug 21 '20 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin: Other humans across the world survived in underground shelters as well, the only difference was that all the others could only last for a few decades, not centuries, so normal humans still prevail in the wasteland $\endgroup$ – DT Cooper Aug 21 '20 at 18:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.