Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Alpha Site: the Navy's nuclear Grand Central, in the suburbs of San Francisco

Here's a ground-level photo of yesterday's mystery site on the eastern fringes of Concord, California, from flickr user topherus:

Looking at the map, I noticed that these rails all led to the US Naval Station Port Chicago, about three miles away on the shore of Suisun Bay (the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta). A quick search uncovered this globalsecurity.org blurb about the base:
The Detachment’s primary purpose is the loading and unloading of large quantities of weapons and equipment from cargo and pre-positioning ships. This differs substantially from most other naval weapons stations and detachments, where weapons are loaded aboard combatants, amphibious vessels or replenishment ships one at a time or in very small groups. Base infrastructure is uniquely suited for bulk quantity operations with one floating crane, seven shore cranes, 1 superstacker, one Rough Terrain Container Handler, 342 forklifts, 101 miles of railroad track, and 79 miles of roadway. During wartime conditions, Detachment Concord has the capability to load 4,500 tons of munitions per day.
This is how frightened we used to be of the Communists: imagine building all this in order to send hundreds of bomb-packed boxcars to explode over Siberia on a daily basis, because the Russians were also planning to send hundreds of bomb-packed boxcars to explode over California on a daily basis. Stuff like this gives me some comfort in knowing that our global society isn't quite as batshit crazy as we were during the Cold War.

The base's inland portions, including those pictured above and in yesterday's post, are massive weapons bunkers, designed to transfer boxcars full of explosives into storage, and then onto waiting Navy ships. The area is currently in the process of being decommissioned, and in the course of planning for redevelopment, newly-declassified details are emerging. One "community representative" at a recent meeting learned from the Navy’s “Historic Radiological Assessment” team that nuclear missiles were stored in these bunkers, and moved through these railyards on a fairly regular basis. The "Halfway to Concord" blogger reports:

The area of these bunkers can be seen from Willow Pass Road as your approach Highway 4 looking South East, there is a set of bunkers set aside surrounded by a double wire fence with telephone poles surrounding it with floodlights on them. It was called in various documents: the Alpha Site or in RAB records as Site 22 Bunker Group 2...

The period of atomic weapon storage was ended “long ago”, but the implication elsewhere is that they removed more than 25 years ago and maybe into the late 70’s...

In the main ‘Bunker City’ area [pictured above] opposite the Dana Estates there were 6 bunkers that housed ammunition for the Phalanx Weapon System that used depleted Uranium bullets. This material is about 1/3 denser than lead, which is why it makes for a better bullet for this weapon system.
The author also notes that, in the city's redevelopment plan, much of the base would be sold off to housing developers to house 33,000 new residents. The area of these bunkers, the Grand Central station of Cold War naval warheads, would become the site of "low density ‘Estate’ style housing," which is Californian for "McMansions."

Other than the fact that Contra Costa County has averaged about 100 foreclosures a day for the past year, building new, radioactive trophy houses is probably a fantastic idea! Hey, Californians: here's some inspiration from ye olde East Coast.

PS- Kudos for commenter Jake D. in the previous post for guessing correctly what these were.

No comments: