US Nuclear Target Map: Potential Targets and Safe Zones

With the nuclear threat ever-growing in our world full of politics and turmoil, you might wonder about the U.S. nuclear target map and where you are the safest. We might hope that the threat of a nuclear strike is minimal with appropriate relationships between nations, but taking steps to negate our dangers is a smart tactic.

A year ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin let the world know about his country’s nuclear strength, and everyone is well aware that North Korea has its stash of nuclear weapons. What countries have nuclear warheads? Here is a general estimation:Russia: 6,850

  • United States: 6,550
  • France: 300
  • China: 280
  • United Kingdom: 215
  • Pakistan: 145
  • India: 135
  • Israel: 80
  • North Korea: 15

Don’t forget; the number of nuclear warheads doesn’t matter as much as a proper strike. A nuclear warhead dropped strategically in the United States can do more than 10 dropped haphazardly. Never underestimate a nation with nuclear weapons.

All of this has me wondering about the possible US nuclear targets, and I wanted to compare maps. Does everyone have the same idea about where a terrorist might target? If so, can we agree on some safe areas in the US? Let’s take a look

A nuclear attack “would have devastating results”: US Govt.

America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, otherwise known as the CDC, is starting the public awareness campaign with a workshop called “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation“. This workshop is designed for doctors, government officials, first responders, and other stakeholders who would have a direct role in the responsibility of addressing the after-effect should a nuclear attack ever happen.

But this isn’t just for professionals working in the preparedness industry, the CDC encourages everyone to “Learn how planning and preparation efforts for a nuclear detonation are similar and different from other emergency response planning efforts”.

In the workshop, one of the presentations to be given is on the “Roadmap to Radiation Preparedness”, delivered by a specialist from a Health Protection Division worker.

A nuclear attack on South Korea tv
A woman walks past a television screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on April 5, 2017. AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je

Their reason for launching this new look into preparing for a nuclear attack is simple. They state that “while a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps.”

“Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness.  For instance, most people don’t realize that sheltering in place for at least 24 hours is crucial to saving lives and reducing exposure to radiation. While federal, state, and local agencies will lead the immediate response efforts, public health will play a key role in responding.”

This workshop isn’t only a sign of the serious attitude health agencies are taking toward nuclear preparedness, it’s also an invitation to the public as the CDC and other agencies are making a trend towards being more public with their nuclear preparedness strategies in a bid to ease residents into an understanding of what nuclear preparedness is.

The workshop will be aired on January 16, 2018, and will be live-streamed to the public. You will be able to find more details on the live stream on the CDC page closer to the date.

What problems do governments face in promoting nuclear preparedness?

Overcoming the hurdle of encouraging nuclear preparedness is no easy feat, even for some of the world’s biggest government powers. For them, promoting simple awareness campaigns on issues of preparedness is difficult enough, such as how to limit the spread of disease, and preparing for storms and wildfires.

Sure, disasters and wildfires do happen, and we all know how quick the common cold can spread from bus handles to confined public spaces, but how do you encourage people to start looking at the real hard facts of nuclear attacks and what to do in the event of a nuclear detonation?

This just adds to the soiree of preparedness issues we face this day and age, and will eventually be as common as what high school shooter drills and traffic barricades to stop driving attacks have since become.

There are a few other issues that are prevalent for nuclear attacks and preparedness though.

What are the Primary Targets on the US Nuclear Target Map?

Of course, the targets are speculation, but we can make some reasonable guesses as to possible strikes. We assume that a terrorist nation would want to cause the most deaths possible. More deaths equal more terror, and that’s their end goal.

Everyone already knows that The White House, federal buildings, air-force bases, and military bases are targets. Modern Survival Blog made a popular nuclear targets map that many preppers have used to pick safe spots.

US Target Map

Photo Credit: Modern Survival Blog

Large Cities  and Areas That Might Be a Target

First, let’s look at cities and metro areas that have at least 50 million people. Then, we look at areas that terrorists could easily enter due to their proximity to the border.

  • New York City, NY
  • Washington D.C.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Miami, FL
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Honolulu, HI

In 1990, FEMA created a map with potential nuclear targets. It is a bit dated since its 30 years old, but it’s a good resource to have to see the risks. This map shows us that the east coast, particularly from Maryland up towards Connecticut is full of potential targets. That’s not an area I would want to be. Neither is the coastline of California and most of the midwest states like Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and southern Michigan.

Nuclear Targets in the United States

Active nuclear power plants are large targets as well. There are nine just on the east coast and more spread out over the continental United States. Right now, there are around 90 active nuclear plants in the United States, and more are on the books to be built.

Here are a few:

  • Southern Jersey Coast
  • Beaver Valley, PA
  • Braidwood, IL
  • Palo Verde, AZ
  • Sequoyah, TN
  • Browns Ferry, AL
  • Calvert Cliffs, MD
  • Byron, IL
  • Joseph M. Farley, AL

Bases That Could Be Targets

Something else to consider is that military bases can be targets as well. Stephen Schwartz offers a map of potential targets that are based on their military importance. These targets are spread widely around the country, but they include air force bases, ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile land-based bases), and nuclear storage locations. Hitting command centers is a smart idea if you’re a terrorist.

Identifying that a nuclear detonation is a risk in any area

Nuclear attacks are not always just aimed at big cities, other establishments might have a greater influence on the damage to a nation and its residents.

So where could a nuclear attack or nuclear detonation be made? One way it has been addressed by agencies in the past is to consider the strategic assets a specific location may have. These would be things such as:

  • Military Installations
  • Ammunitions depots
  • Industrial centers that, if destroyed, could cripple a nation’s supply economy
  • Foodbowl areas that would damage the food supply to a nation or its trade supply
  • Key infrastructures such as power plants, dams, and water reservoirs
  • Largely populated areas

According to the US Government’s nuclear response website, Ready.gov, potential targets can also include centers of governments and major ports and airfields.

This means that even if you are not in a built-up or metropolitan area, that you are deemed safe from a nuclear detonation, as there may be these assets nearby that are a considerable target for an attack.

The following is a 2017 map of potential nuclear targets based on government installations.

potential nuclear attack targets
2017 USA map of potential nuclear targets. Source: Reddit.

Safe Areas in the United States

You might think places like Montana would be safe, but there is a large nuclear plant in the center of the state. Most states have at least one or two possible targets.

Right now, Maine is considered fairly safe. There are no nuclear plants nearby nor does Maine have any significantly sized cities. A majority of Oregon and northern California are also regions with a better chance to survive a nuclear war. Also, the middle of Idaho should be a safe place to reside.

Another interesting map shows us the earthquake zones with nuclear reactor locations. That’s something to consider because a nuclear strike could potentially trigger an earthquake, so picking areas with lower possibilities of earthquakes are wise. This map recommends:

  • Eastern Montana
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • Parts of Nebraska and Kansas

If we go back to the FEMA map, we see that Idaho and Oregon still shows a lot of safe zones. FEMA didn’t include many dangers in Wyoming or Nevada. South Dakota is still safe, but this map shows a large target in North Dakota that might make it not an ideal pick. Maine is still empty of dangers.

What is the current approach to a nuclear attack?

The US Government’s Ready.gov page is at the forefront of government national emergency response efforts. As a joint effort from Homeland Security and emergency response agencies, the site addresses nuclear survival and nuclear preparedness.

How to Prepare for a Possible Nuclear Strike

The best tip is to not live in a major city. Sure, living in New York City might be exciting, but it’s an obvious nuclear target. It’s also wise to avoid living in the blast areas. If you live in the blast radius, you might experience several things, such as:

  • Rampant, uncontrollable fires
  • Nuclear fallout falling from the skies
  • Panicked and desperate people

Ultimately, we have no control over whether or not a nuclear strike happens, and that’s a scary feeling. We like to control our futures to the best of our ability, and this is one future in which we have no control.

Aside from picking a smart area to live, there are a few things that you can do to prepare for a nuclear strike.

Know Your Exit Routes

If you have to escape to a safer location, you need more than one exit route. Include several routes to get out of your home, including north, east, south, and west. If you do live in a metro area, you need several routes ready to go to escape if necessary.

Find The Closest Nuclear Bunker

Figure out ahead of time where your closest nuclear bunker is so you know exactly where to escape when the time comes.

Get Potassium Iodide Tablets

Most people don’t die from the first blast, but rather they die from the fallout and lasting problems in the months and years ahead. Potassium iodide tablets are a must-have and they’ll provide you with protection from the nuclear fallout.

Have a Plan to Bug In

Escaping isn’t always a possibility. You always need a plan to bug in and how to protect your home, windows, and doors from the fallout and radiation.

Understand Wind Movement

The wind will determine which way the fallout will spread more rapidly. Understanding the wind pattern lets you figure out how fast you need to escape and if you have additional time.

Get Your Bug Out Bag Ready

Nuclear strikes don’t always have warnings, which is scary. We want a warning so we have time to get home and prepare as the danger strikes. That’s not always how it works, so having your bug out bag ready to go is smart. Have a bag for each family member prepared and ready to go.

How Do I Know a Nuclear Threat is Serious?

So, how do you know that the threat is serious or that a strike happened? Here are a few ways to know that its time to evacuate the nuclear target areas.

Electronics Stop Working

Most experts believe a nuclear war will start with an EMP, so if all of your electronics stop working, the danger is coming. All they’d have to do is detonate a nuclear weapon about 300 miles above the United States, and it’ll darken all of the US, Canada, and Mexico.

An EMP will cut off our communication and our ability to retaliate. If we cannot communicate with our bases all of the country, we won’t be able to properly handle our troops

The News Announces A Nuclear Bomb Was Detonated

It doesn’t matter if the bomb was detonated in the next state or a country around the world. As soon as a nuclear war begins, all of humanity is at risk. If one of the nations is an ally to the United States, we may have to follow in defense. Usually, one bomb is followed by more, so head for the hills or get ready.

Explodes Miles Away But Didn’t Harm You

If you didn’t die, the fallout can cause you to have a lifetime of cancer and radiation ahead of you. The longer you’re exposed to radiation, the lower your chance of survival. So, once you know for sure that a nuclear bomb exploded within a close range of you, it’s time to bug out as fast as you can. Remember that the fallout is just as dangerous as the bomb. Wear masks.

If We Declare War on Another Nuclear Power

We would hope that our leaders wouldn’t put our nation in harm’s way by declaring war on a nuclear warhead holder, but anything is possible. If we declare war, it’s time to head to the hills into your bug-out cabin, or its time to start preparing for the worse.

The possibility of a nuclear war is a scary reality that we might face as a nation. Our world is constantly in turmoil. Use these US nuclear target map to help you figure out what are the safest (and most dangerous) areas for you to be in if you’re worried about a nuclear strike.

A more local approach to nuclear preparedness

While the US’ Homeland Services and FEMA are pushing the nuclear agenda as a national preparedness issue, some local government systems are adopting the approach and using their methods to promote the essentials of a nuclear attack response.

Southern California’s Ventura County launched a campaign in 2013 using pamphlets, a school training program, community meetings, and four Youtube videos on nuclear education. Their message is simple, “Get inside, stay inside, stay tuned” and the community response has been thankful for a simple community-driven preparedness approach.

Here is Ventura County’s video:

Expect to see more nuclear attack preparedness campaigns

As governments answer to the concerns over whether nations are ready for a nuclear attack or detonation, there seems to be a new level of transparency with governments opening up their preparedness strategies with the public.

A risk assessment and public health expert, David Ropeik, said the majority of public information campaigns about nuclear preparedness have been “too passive” and “not adequate.”

The ongoing threats from North Korea “create a huge opportunity to get this on our radar screen.” and  “the information is out there, most people just need to be alerted that it is there.”

National Center for Disaster Preparedness Director Irwin Redlener said informing the public has been slowed by concerns about creating an undue alarm. And that a worse failing by the Government would be to leave people in the dark about simple precautions that could save lives.

“The public should be treated as adults,” Redlener said. “We live in a complicated world and we want people to be prepared.”

33 thoughts on “US Nuclear Target Map: Potential Targets and Safe Zones”

    • First off, with the exception of 20 megaton warheads for hard targets like missile silos, most nukes in the large arsenals only yield about 500 kilotons. A 500 kiloton blast would be an airburst at optimal altitude for maximum effect against soft targets.
      A 500 kiloton blast would kill everyone within a 2 mile radius with 50% casualties out to 4 miles. The United states is 3.2 million sq miles.
      A circle with 4 mile radius is approx. 50 sq miles. As stated above, russia only has 6850 warheads. A third of those would be 20 megatons reserved for hard targets. That leaves about 4600 for soft targets. They would only cover a combined area of 230 thousand sq miles. As long as you avoid high value targets, large cities, military bases, communication centers, universities, and so forth you’ll only have to deal with fallout.
      Do not go to north dakota, south dakota, basically anywhere in the midwest as thats where missile silos are located. Safest place? Try a natinal forest. They are not targets. Most are no where near military bases or large urban areas.

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      • I took a Civil Defense course in high school that explained all this just like you did . I chose to live in an area where it was beautiful but near several targets . I can’t imagine being alive after a strike ever. I can fix anything except stupid politicians that would use weapons like this.

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  1. As you imply, there are not enough warheads to melt a major country off the map, so you are left with crippling and disabling options. Also, try to make tertiary products of an exchange more effective. So, my priorities are to disrupt power supplies, governance, military movement, fuel production and food production. Don’t waste warheads on population centers, rather contaminate food production areas and the residents of New York etc. will be eating each other in 3 months time. And don’t forget, Kim Minor can easily be persuaded to try his hand at a few warheads on Hawaii. In Europe, Berlin, Brussels, and Frankfurt are probably the prime targets. No biologicals as it is too close to home. The Russian army will take care of NATO forces in no time, so that may cause the US to fire on Europe anyway… As for targets in Russia, well, it’s just too big, isn’t it? So maybe similar criteria apply there. But the survival of Russia is much more guaranteed.

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    • ” the survival of Russia is much more guaranteed.”
      WRONG. Russia has same punch as US/NATO nuclear arsenal but their brittle infrastructure cannot take the punch nearly as well. Ru population more urban concentrated and in much smaller number of cities than US/NATO.
      The infrastructure of Russia is barely functional day-to-day, pre-Nx exchange!
      Outside of St. P and Moscow-to-Volga, Ru is little better than rural Alaska.
      It is why Putin is trying to claw back Ukrainian farmland, coal, strat. minerals.
      Country with only 140m people, vs vastly harder infrastructure of European and N. American NATO enemy of 900m wealthier citizens. Vast majority of Russian communications and economic infrastructure within 200 miles of Moscow. Rest of country has the flimsy communications and brutal climate of Alaska outside of the Anchorage-Fairbanks developed core.

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    • “The Russian army will take care of NATO forces in no time”

      Looks like Russia has there hands full with Ukraine, let alone UN (or should we say US) forces armed with unlimited up to date weaponry.

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    • The current performance of the Russian Army and Air forces in Ukraine makes your claim of the outcome of a NATO vs Russia matchup suspect. News out yesterday indicates that Putin is shopping around for Syrian mercenaries to do his dirty work in Ukraine; that doesn’t sound like a vote of confidence in his troops. In addition, ROTC cadets could do a better job of logistics planning than Putin’s Potemkin brigades.

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    • Wrong. I think the Ukrainians are showing the real side of the Russian army. They’re losing more men and weapons than anyone thought possible. They’re bumbling with logistics. The sanctions are going to seriously limit their ability to replace those lost tanks, jets, and helicopters. NATO would would obliterate them, if it had the will to do so. However, nobody would win a nuclear war. Russia may have more land, but have far LESS targets. Fewer cities, bases, power plants, etc. It would be easy to cripple that country.

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    • “The Russian Army will take care of NATO forces in no time”..LMAO. Umm hmm. Like they were going to Ukraine also right? The Russian Army cant take care of Ukrainian Forces in “No time.” Its ammo stockpiles and surplus cannon fodder of 18 year old Conscripts is being spent, Morale is low. Supply is Low. Clearly training sux. Sure, id agree Putin has probably reserved his best troops and equipment for after he’s weakened the enemy…But he’ll be expended the bulk of his forces -the huge numbers we’ve seen touted for years of tens of thousands of infantry and armored power? It’s Being ground down in Ukraine by a force 1/4 its size with weapons lent to them by foreign powers. Russia cant finish Ukraine – the though of it being able to run over NATO Combined forces when it meets real airpower and professional soldiers-after being wore down and battle weary, low morale, and chewed up after slogging 500 more miles through Ukraine being shot at the whole way…? Tanks being lost all the way there? NAH The Russian Army wont be “taking care” of that,. NOW having said that, what it does mean, is Bladder-mir here will be even more likely to use Tactical nukes, as its the only option he has left . The vaunted “bear” that was supposed to be the shadow of military death over Europe? Its being exposed for being long on BS and short on quality. Yes the bully is still a threat, as he has guns , and a ride to the playground. But in terms of being a organized professional Conventional military giant? A paper one at best..so while this is no comfort to the Ukrainians who are going to be overwhelmed by sheer numbers ..when the chewed up Russian troops hit the fresh, well armed ,Air protected wall of Polish, Romanian, German, French, UK, ect troops….Putin’s Forway East will grind to a halt .He’ll learn quickly hes not the only bully on the block with Nukes- The NATO countries hes moving on have them as well. If there is a Nuke exchange between the US and Russia VIA ICBMS and Sub launched missiles, Make no mistake Russia’s size wont be of any help. There isn’t a corner that wont be touched if it holds a viable target. The fact that there is less targeted area may allow for avoiding blast-but fall out and Nuke winter will apply in Russia as well and likely even worse in terms of winter. Survival of Russia is less likely, as unlike the US who is protected by a ocean before Russia or her Chinese allies could set foot on US soil only to be met by a Conventional Professional , better trained force that hasn’t been chewed up Fighting on the European Continent- not to mention backed by a multi million armed and enthusiastic Civilian Populace all to eager to play Patriot once again,, its been far to long … and many of them veterans , who have grown up with their rifles, not just had them passed out to them 2 weeks go. Id say the US has far better post strike survival odds -esp if the US read the card right and had a first strike advantage.

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      • Fantastic, well thought out response Mr. Abbott! As a genXer, I am loading Red Dawn in the DVD now! Even if the “Russian dominance” post was birthed from a “bot farm” in some dark corner…

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  2. What about Alaska? There are several military bases, rich oil production, and lots of minerals Also has the early warning system, which I don’t know if they have nucks or not. The only place there for safety could be the interior. The interior is extremely frigid and unhospitable.

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    • True, but after a massive nuclear attack from multiple nations, the mean temperature on earth would rise drastically for a short period until the nuclear winter set in. At that time central Alaska would likely become unbearable unless one had an underground bunker and plenty of supplies.

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  3. Only the country that does the first nuclear pre-emptive attack can win a nuclear war. The U.S. and Russia knows this.
    And the attack will be on all or most military installations, air fields and missle silos, etc., in order to prevent or lessen the retaliation.
    Contrary to belief, the attack will not be on large populated areas as the winner of the war would still want to use the “self-defense” reason for the attack.

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  4. Majority of the counties with nuclear warfare capabilities are located in the Northern Hemisphere. Nuclear fallout and winds will contaminate Earth for thousands of years. Best bet of survival in my opinion is to head south as far as possible, but that would be a battle dealing with EMPs taking out modes of transportation, lack of utilities, gas, supplies, nuclear fallout and others who are desperate to survive. Those who survive will be jealous of those who were instantly disintegrated.

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  5. Reading this as Putin puts his family in a nuclear bunker and set his nuclear forces to high alert. You can say it’s not happening, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

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  6. I’m in Japan, which is surely a target for NK, CH, and RU considering all the U.S. military bases here. I’m prepping just to be “safe” which means bug-out bags are ready to go. I’ve been scouting for places to shelter, but Japan doesn’t have much in the way of fallout shelters. I feel like the only place worth considering is a train tunnel that is a few miles long. I’m just worried about wind currents running through the tunnel. There is a military base nearby so that is the only place I think we (wife and kid) could survive a blast. What a world we live in.

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  7. I think it is impossible to grasp the full extent of a nuclear exchange. We live in a connected society. Try to imagine waking up to no power,no running autos and no water with no way to communicate to attempt to find out what happened? Most would wait hoping that everything would go back to normal.
    Normal will not happen again,,,,ever. Even if you drive a 65 Mustang and can get to the store , its doubtful you could buy anything since all power is off. Most stores would close as soon as power is off. By then people will panic and start looting. You might be lucky to get the only working car back home. Even if the store stayed open, it would soon run out of everything and no, repeat, no stock will be coming.
    Optimistic estimates say it would take many months to years to get the power on in the event o a single EMP blast or large coronal ejection (solar flare).
    In a case where the power plants were bombed the power might not come back on in our lifetimes.
    I have been a preper, but due to illness and having five grandkids to be responsible for, so Im no more prepped than average. Im trying to up my stock, but it looks like I may have to use my guns to feed my kids.
    We like to think we are a peaceful country, but how peaceful will it be when your kids are starving and Joe Blow next door is gobbling up food. will do what must be done to feed my family. Im also the guy that can be relied on to give my last crust of bread to anyone hungry, as long as my kids are good. Ill help anyone and protect anyone as far as i can, but my 7yr old grandson comes first.
    Good luck to everyone and be safe. YouTube look up CityPreper.

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    • Vast majority of cars would work just fine, especially older diesel cars. It is true that electronic fuel injection has been in use since the late 60’s, but the vast majority of cars have highly-conductive aluminum frames & bodies that would act as a faraday cage and protect electronics. The biggest issue would be food as both vegetation and animal life would be hit hard by spreading fallout with little room to dissipate. Those in coastal areas or mountains will likely do best as they’ll have protection and a semi-stable food supply. Possibly heavily-forested areas also depending on location relative to blasts. Your point about feeding family with guns is also a poor one. You are likely to be shot, quickly and alone, by the first group you mistake for an easy target (which would be prevalent in the US). Best bet to feed your people would be to stock up on ammo like you said, but also whiskey, gold, medical supplies, emergency rations, communications equipment, and on and on. In other words tradable items. Even if society breaks down, a form of society will spring up among the survivors within months, if not weeks or days, and the guy going around murdering for food will be the first to go. Bartering will rule and high-value trade items will make the kings. Plus I’ll have lots of ammo and fun home-alone style traps for when guys like you decide to try and steal from me. Be smart, invest in a canner and some Jack Daniels over another Glock.

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  8. I do not believe an attack would be nuclear. I believe it will be biological. What did everyone learn from Corona/covid-19? The CCP and Red Army would rather not fire a single shot to eliminate and enemy and take over countries. Using a super virus would make complete sense. A country would be much weaker if not completely decimated. Several years later, if that long, the opposing Army could walk into the country and own it and the resources. After such a virus, worst case would be a much less military operation by the opposing country. Keep in mind, the governments that would launch such an attack do not care about their own citizens, only themselves.

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