U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project
was completed in August 1998 and resulted in the book
Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 edited by Stephen I. Schwartz. These project pages should be considered historical.
Until recently the Federal Reserve Board operated a 140,000 square-foot (13,020 square-meter) radiation hardened facility inside Mount Pony just east of Culpeper, Virginia (near the intersection of State Routes 658 and 3). Dedicated on December 10, 1969, the 400 foot long (122 meter) bunker was built of steel-reinforced concrete one foot (30.5 centimeters) thick. Lead-lined shutters could be dropped to shield the windows of the semi-recessed facility, which is covered by 2-4 feet (0.6-1.2 meters) of dirt and surrounded by barbed-wire fences and a guard post. The seven computers at the facility, operated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, were the central node for all American electronic funds transfer activities.
Until 1988, Mount Pony stored several billion dollars worth of U.S. currency?including a large number of $2 bills?shrink-wrapped and stacked on pallets 9 feet (2.7 meters) high. Following a nuclear attack, this money was to be used to replenish currency supplies east of the Mississippi.
Prior to July 1992, the bunker, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) southwest of Washington, D.C., also served as a continuity of government facility. With a peacetime staff of 100, the site was designed to support an emergency staff of 540 for 30 days, but only 200 beds were provided in the men's and women's dormitories (to be shared on a "hot-bunk" basis by the staff working around the clock). A pre-planned menu of freeze-dried foods for the first 30 days of occupation was stored on site; private wells would provide uncontaminated water following an attack. Other noteworthy features of the facility were a cold storage area for maintaining bodies unable to be promptly buried (due to high radiation levels outside), an incinerator, indoor pistol range, and a helicopter landing pad.
In November 1997, Congress authorized the transfer of the facility from the Federal Reserve to the Library of Congress which, using funds from a private foundation, will purchase and renovate the site to house its extensive motion picture, television, and recorded sound collections.
An aerial view of Mount Pony, showing how the facility is built into the hillside. A single guard station at the entrance controlled access to the site. There are 119 parking spaces.
The main entrance to the facility.
The entrance to Mount Pony's ground-floor high security vault.
A view of the 23,500 square foot (2,186 square meter) vault. The ceiling is 11.6 feet (3.5 meters) high.
Credit: Don Eiler's Custom Photography (courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond)