U.S. Nuclear Target Map (Do You Live In a Death Zone?)

U.S. Nuclear Target Map

A few days ago I was doing research on nuclear war, world war 3, and potential nuclear targets and safe distances from those target sites when I came across the NUKEMAP.

The U.S. nuclear target map is an interesting and unique program unlike other nuclear target maps because it lets you pick the target and what size nuclear device that the area you chose is hit with and then shows the likely effects and range of damage and death that would be caused by that nuclear device if it hit and detonated on your chosen target area.

The NukeMap looks to be fairly accurate as to the blast area, fallout and damage but of course all any  U.S. Nuclear Target Map can do is represent an educated guess as to effects of a nuclear blast from and to a given area.

If you’re curious to know if you’re living in a nuclear death zone then go over and give the NukeMap a try if nothing else you’ll be entertained for a few minutes. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page and look to the right side and click the “Don’t log usage data” before choosing and nuking your target.

I used the NukeMap set to the closest possible nuclear target to my location, that is Oak Ridge Tennessee and according to the map I’m safe from the detonation blast of the largest Russia bomb the Tsar Bomba, however, thermal radiation could be an issue.

According to the site Thermal radiation can cause:

Third-degree burns extend throughout the layers of skin and are often painless because they destroy the pain nerves. They can cause severe scarring or disablement and can require amputation.

Not good… however, there is some “good news” according to the U.S. Nuclear Target Map below from Wikimedia Commons

US_nuclear_strike_map As you can see Oak Ridge Tennessee isn’t shown as a target on the map, but then the nuclear target map is from 1984 so those targets might have changed and or more target areas added to the list, and who knows where the bombs will land during a nuclear exchange, one could go off course and land right in my bedroom…

But, then with nuclear detonations, it’s usually not the blast that but the radioactive fallout that kills the most people, and as you can see from the map below the most likely path of radioactive fallout across the U.S. from potential target areas. However, radiation can and will spread around the globe if it enters the jet stream.

Fallout_map_USAHave you considered and planned for nuclear war? Are you living in a nuclear target area? What are your plans if and when a nuclear world war three begins?

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Radioactive nuke attack survival

Added by Joel Skousen

First, let’s be clear about one thing:  nuclear war is very survivable, even with minimal preparations, so don’t believe the “everyone is going to die” claims about nuclear winter and total destruction.  50% of Hiroshima survived without any preparations, though many were very sick.

Keep in mind too that even Russian and Chinese war doctrine doesn’t include nuking American cities on a first strike, despite the verbal threats.  In reality, they intend to nuke US and NATO military facilities first and blackmail the West into submission.

There are 3 phases of nuclear war that you must be prepared to confront:

1) Initial blast and radiation.  The blast area of destruction is only 5-7 miles from any nuclear target, so don’t prepare against blast effects, which is very expensive—relocate instead.  Avert your eyes immediately from even a distant explosion and duck behind anything that will shield you from the instantaneous line of sight radiation and intense heat and light.

Most will never see any blast effects, but almost everyone will have to deal with residual radiation from anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, which is not that difficult if you prepare in advance.

2)  Immediate panic and cut off of electricity and supplies.  Because both Russian and Chinese nuclear doctrine dictates the use of high attitude Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse weapons (EMP)  just before a physical nuclear strike, the electric grid will go down—which guarantees a lot of panic as people are plunged into darkness, lack of communication, and the cessation of all government services, like sewer and water.

Don’t believe the hype about Iran or North Korea doing an EMP strike.  It takes six simultaneous high altitude nuclear weapons exploding to blanket the entire US grid, not one.  So, only Russia and China have that capacity.

Remember too, that a total loss of electricity, including all TV and Radio may be your best immediate warning that a physical nuclear strike is about to fall within 15 or 20 minutes.  That’s not a lot of time, but it may allow you to get a head start out of town or make a quick call to warn the family.

This threat requires preparation to get to your secured home or retreat very quickly without getting caught in major traffic snarls.  Don’t get on a freeway that is already packed.  Use secondary roads, and map out routes that allow you to cross any freeways at an over or underpass NOT associated with an on-ramp or an exit.  Those will be the only ones not blocked with traffic.

3) Long-term famine and Social Unrest:   This gets into full swing within 3 days of an attack and may last more than a year depending on how quickly parts of the grid can come back up and how well industry can re-establish supplies lines.  While it’s hard to predict how these things will play out, this is where your long-term food and water storage supplies come in.

Don’t expect to be able to grow a garden that first year in a suburban area during high levels of social unrest without lots of theft. That will only be possible in rural and secluded areas.   That’s where having a rural retreat is a good long-term solution.

This article will deal mainly with the first threat—surviving the radiation.   It takes a heavy mass of materials to shield from gamma radiation, which is much more potent than X-rays, so forget about using medical grade X-ray shielding materials. Your wooden house and roofing materials are like paper to gamma rays, so not much shielding there either.

Nuclear protection purists would demand a reduction in radiation that is almost total requiring  13.8 feet of water, 10 feet of earth, 6 feet of concrete, or about 1.3 feet of lead—a Protection Factor (PF) of a billion, all of which are very costly to achieve.  This Survival Blog article discusses the relative protection factors for various materials.

As a practical matter, we have to arrive at a compromise between the cost of construction and shielding.  You need less shielding the farther you are away from an explosion since radioactive dust starts to fall out from the sky closest to the detonation and only the finer high altitude particles travel longer distances, depending on the wind direction.

In short, you get less radiation the farther from blast zones you are located.

For example, Immediately to the West of Seattle, which has multiple nuclear targets around Puget Sound including the Trident submarine base, you would probably need a PF of 1000 to shield against several inches of radioactive dust on your roof.

That amounts to 22 inches of concrete or 3 feet of dirt. But, further to the West in Idaho, the radioactive dust from Seattle would be a fraction of that, requiring much less shielding.

Many experts demand a “one size fits all” PF of 1000, but that means that very few could afford to build a shelter or safe room—and they don’t.

Because most areas of the country, not directly downwind and within 50 miles of a blast one, are not subject to those high levels, most people can survive with a protection factor of only 32, meaning that that radiation level is reduced to 1/32 of normal.  That involves 12” of concrete over your basement shelter—not 22”, which is doable, and not too costly.

Because of the much higher costs of protection close into target areas, in my book Strategic Relocation, I recommend that your money is better spent relocating, even within the same general area, to avoid being directly downwind or close to a nuclear target.

In the book, I have maps of all the nuclear target areas for guidance, but also indicate the one or two prevailing wind directions in your area necessary to mapping out an avoidance strategy.

Choosing the type of shelter

Your two basic choices are to buy a prefabricated tank style shelter that is buried underground, or to build a basement style shelter within your own home, or as an extension.  The only advantages to the buried tank shelter are that it is quicker to install, and covering with dirt is cheaper than concrete.

However, they are more expensive per square foot of usable space, and they often come designed with expensive blast doors and valves, which you don’t need outside of a blast area.  Sadly, many also are designed with costly NBC or HEPA filters inside the shelter, but the sheet metal filter enclosures are not thick enough to stop radiation trapped in the filter from reaching those inside the shelter. The average cost is $50k-$75k, and you can build a lot of basement for that price.

But the worst problem with buried shelters is the fact that you have to go outside and open a hatch to get inside.  The notoriety of bringing in a huge tank shelter on a semi-truck and burying it in your backyard with a crane guarantees that the whole neighborhood is going to know about it.

How do you get in if that entrance is surrounded by others wanting shelter?   All your loading of supplies and equipment is down through that vertical ladder well, which is not easy.  In addition, the ventilation pipes emerge from the ground and are subject to tampering or blocking.  If you do use a buried shelter, put a shed or building over it.

That way the vents are protected from view and tampering.  Still have to cross open ground to get into the shed, which is a security risk.

The basement shelter avoids all of those disadvantages since you access it and stock it with supplies from within your home.  No one can view any of that activity.  Vents go up through walls into the attic, and HEPA air filters can be concealed in or under normal cabinets.

The basement safe room or shelter (never call it a “bunker”) is also easier to conceal, and it should be concealed.  In cases of massive social unrest, you want to have the option of avoiding confrontation by hiding out in a concealed safe room with a steel security door, communications, and alternate battery-powered electricity.

If you do an extension to your home with a basement shelter underneath, label the basement part as non-livable “storage” only, and don’t show any of the plumbing that might pertain to a future shelter.  Install all that after the occupancy permit is granted.  My book on the Secure Home has all of the architectural details on how to do that plus detailed listings of all the equipment necessary to outfit the shelter.

But, if you have an existing basement the best way to achieve total privacy without a permit or inspection, is to build a concealed shelter within the basement.  We have engineered plans to do just that here.

As a minimum, prepare your home to give you added protection without a formal shelter.  In a basement, that would involve building two addition stacked walls of concrete block (6ft high and 8ft across) into a corner of a room away from any window, but leaving a 24” entryway. & Cover that with a makeshift ceiling of 2×4 on 12” centers with ¾” plywood.

Then stack 3 levels solid 4” concrete blocks on top of that makeshift ceiling.  That will give you the minimum radiation protection you need.  Have a port-a-potty inside as well as some food and stored water.  It will be tight, but at least you’ll survive.  If you don’t have a basement, you’ll have to do four block walls inside an above ground room to get the sidewall protection. Do the lowered ceiling on top of those 4 six foot high walls.

It takes about two weeks for gamma rays to dissipate so you will need to buy a radiation meter to tell when it is safe to come out or to go back into a shelter (since in a war, there may be multiple nuclear events).  KI4U.com has a range of nuclear meters at good prices.


Joel Skousen has designed high-security residents and retreats for over 40 years.  He is the author of Strategic Relocation, the Secure Home, The High-Security Shelter, 10 Packs for Survival, and is the publisher of the weekly World Affairs Brief, which analyzes the week’s top stories from a perspective of what the government and the mainstream news won’t telling you.

Surviving a nuclear attack – Irwin Redlener

How to Protect Yourself from Nuclear Fallout and Survive an Atomic Attack – 1950s Educational Film

Webb Pierce – more and more – love this song.

I know that most of you don’t want to think about it but we are heading towards a nuclear world war three, possibly within the next few months, but more likely within the next five years.

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  1. I live just west of Washington D.C. In the event of a nuclear strike I am so close that my only expectation is that my radioactive ashes will give off a soft glow for the next 10,000 or so years. I have made no plans to survive a nuclear strike because I will not survive longer than a few milliseconds beyond the formation of the initial fireball.Frankly, I consider that a blessing.

  2. I am looking at the map you posted and I get that the red dots are nuke targets and darker shades of brown represent death radiation and potential fallout. But what do the other colors mean? What color areas are safest and which are marginally safe?

  3. What does the blue and yellow mean

  4. Yameen Baig

    Sign of end time when everything will destroy …

    • M.D. Creekmore

      Yameen Baig,

      Possibly, but then people have been saying the end is near and looking for the end of time to be just around the corner for thousands of years…

  5. I used NUKEMAP to drop the big one on the nearest military base, and wound up outside the circles for that target.

    Then a light bulb went off. Instead of trying dozens of different targets, I used the reciprocal. I dropped the big one on MYSELF, and then checked to see if any likely targets were located inside the rings. It all looks clear.

    But for fallout, I believe on days that the jetstream distorts weather southward, I might be downwind of up to three operating nuclear electric plants. In the event they were attacked plus the wind changed, I don’t know if fallout would drop or pass by overhead.

    But mass panic over a nuke or dirty bomb explosion may be more fatal than any of the bomb effects.

    The wikimedia map does look outdated. The closest target is clearly a former B-52 base that was demilitarized.

  6. OldParatrooper

    MD, not overly happy with the Nuclear Target map from WikiCommons. It appears to me that the targets in many cases are a hundred miles or more from the dot in many cases. Which will confuse those not familiar with the US military and its bases.

    The old fallout map is much better, with the three large swaths of fallout stemming from enemy surface bursts in the three Minuteman III fields in Colorado/Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana.

    These and the two Navy Weapons Stations in WA and GA, along with the COOP/COG bunkers in the “Federal Arc” west of DC will receive surface bursts, which cause massive fallout.

    Strikes on the remaining Army and Air Force bases typically would use “air-bursts” which have enhanced blast effects, but no militarily significant fallout (the bomb itself and any unlucky birds flying by provide the “fallout” materials.”

    A basement shelter, with food and water for two weeks is all the average American family will need. As you said, its easier to move outside the blast radius than to build a blast shelter.

    • M.D. Creekmore


      Do you know of a better one that I can replace it with? I’d be happy to replace with a better one. Always, looking to improve.

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