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Would YOUR neighborhood be targeted in a nuclear conflict?

These are the nuclear ‘hotspots’ across America that could be targeted in the event of a thermonuclear war, according to the government.

While heavily populated cities like New York and Los Angeles may seem like the most likely US targets, there are other, more strategic targets in states such as Montana or North Dakota to wipe out the US’s retaliatory forces.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) originally released the map of the areas most likely to be targeted in 2017 – but it has resurfaced on social media again as the West teeters on the brink of war with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The map shows potential targets in every state, with dense clusters along the eastern seaboard and in California. Particularly large clusters are also highlighted in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Active nuclear power plants are large targets. There are around 90 active nuclear plants in the United States, including plants in Alabama, Arizona, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

A FEMA map shows potential nuclear targets in the US, including ones in 2,000 (indicated in black) and 500 (purple) warhead scenarios, as well as state capitals (asterisk) and cities (squares). 

On the other hand, if you are looking for a ‘safe’ place to live, consider parts of Idaho, Maine, northern California, and Oregon, where the lack of nuclear plants and more sparse populations make them less likely targets. 


  • Turn away and close and cover your eyes to prevent damage to your sight.
  • Drop to the ground face down and place your hands under your body.
  • Remain flat until the heat and two shock waves have passed.
  • Find something to cover your mouth and nose, such as a scarf or handkerchief.
  • Remove any dust from your clothes.
  • Move to a shelter, basement, or other underground area.
  • Shut off ventilation systems and seal doors or windows until the fallout cloud has passed.
  • Stay inside until authorities say it is safe to come out.
  • Listen to the local radio or television for information and advice.
  • Use stored food and drinking water.
  • Clean and cover any open wounds on your body.
  • If you are advised to evacuate, take disaster supplies with you (such as a flashlight, battery-operated radio, emergency food and water).


The US has strategically positioned nuclear forces, which could be prime nuclear targets, far from population centers.  There are ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile silos), naval and air force bases, and nuclear storage depots scattered across the country.

Irwin Redlener, a public-health expert at Columbia University who specializes in disaster preparedness, says there are six US cities that are the most likely targets of a nuclear attack.

New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC are prime targets, not only because of their dense populations but because of critical infrastructure such as financial centers, government buildings, and energy plants.

Other cities and metro areas that could be likely targets include Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres raised a flag about the risk of nuclear conflict last year as Russia’s war on Ukraine waged – and still wages – on.

‘Raising the alert of Russian nuclear forces is a bone-chilling development,’ Guterres said.

The US State Department cautioned last month that Russia is not complying with the last remaining nuclear arms agreement, which was renewed for five years in 2021. Russia has denied these accusations and accused the US of violations as well.

The likelihood of tensions between the US and Russia escalating to nuclear war may be low, but it cannot be ruled out.

Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened the use of nuclear weapons beyond Ukraine late last year. He accused the West of ‘nuclear blackmail’ and warned the US and Europe that Russia has ‘various means of destruction.’

‘To defend Russia and our people, we doubtlessly will use all weapons resources at our disposal,’ Putin said ‘This is not a bluff.’

In December, Putin suggested that Russia may abandon its ‘no first use’ military doctrine, which says Russia would only use nuclear weapons as a last resort. ‘We, on the other hand, have formulated a retaliatory strike in our strategy.’

Along the same lines, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said: ‘We are not just fighting with Ukraine, but with the collective West.’

Patricia Lewis, Chatham House international security program director, told the Independent that a nuclear attack from Russia is believed to be a last resort, but it is still a threatening prospect.

According to the BBC, analysts suggest this should be taken as a warning to other countries to not increase their involvement in the Russia-Ukraine war.

In 2017, Russian state media said Moscow would annihilate parts of the US after a nuclear treaty collapsed.

The nuclear threat posed to the West is not limited to Russia. The Pentagon warned that China has more ground-based facilities capable of launching nuclear missiles than the US.

A nuclear attack in a large metropolitan area is one of the 15 disaster scenarios for which FEMA has an emergency strategy for. It includes deploying first responders, providing shelter for evacuees, and decontaminating victims exposed to radiation.

According to Stephen Schwartz, the author of ‘Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,’ the US has four to five nuclear-armed submarines ‘on hard alert, in their patrol areas, awaiting orders for launch.’

Even high-ranking officials in the US military don’t know where the silent submarines are, and there’s no way Russia could chase them all down before they fired back, which Schwartz said could be done in as little as five to 15 minutes.


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