Once-secret LANL vault now declassified

Posted at: 07/23/2013 5:40 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

For years it was one of the deepest and darkest secret places of the Cold War – a man-made cave in a remote canyon near Los Alamos. Now we have our first-ever look at the place they call the “Tunnel Vault”.

For a time in the late 1940s the vault was the heart of the nation’s nuclear strength – the original post-World War Two storage area for the nuclear weapon stockpile.

From the outside it looks like somebody slapped a garage door on the side of Los Alamos Canyon, but inside its much more impressive.  The vault is a 230 foot concrete tunnel complete with multiple bank vault doors leading to storage bunkers. For a while in 1949 and 1950 it was home to the deadliest stash of weapons in the world.

“After World War Two nobody knew quite what to do about the laboratory," said Lab historian Alan Carr. “In those years following the war the lab’s future solidified under Norris Bradbury. This tunnel was the first of many construction projects of the era.”

Over the years the Tunnel Vault was a storage place for other nuclear materials and nuclear fuels, a research and development lab for nuclear weapons, and an assembly plant for nuclear bomb tests in Nevada and the Pacific Ocean. The vault hasn’t been used since 2000.