Nuclear War: With so Many US Nuclear Targets Can We Survive an Attack?

US nuclear targets consist of the major cities, military bases and plants that can be a possible target in case of a nuke attack

Even though today’s US nuclear targets list is not available to the public, it probably doesn’t look dramatically different from what you can find on FEMA or other gov sites.  As we are not so close to a US-Russia war and not even to a North-Koreean one, any nuke attack will have dramatic impact not only in US but all across the globe.

The United States has about 1,900 nuclear warheads deployed on missiles and bombers and a lot more that are waiting to be dismantled. US government announced in January 2017 that approximately 2,600 retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement. In addition, more than 20,000 plutonium cores and some 5,000 Canned Assemblies from dismantled warheads are in storage at the Pantex Plant in Texas and Y-12 plant in Tennessee.

USA potential nuclear targets map via

From a peaceful point of view, our own nuclear bases can be dangerous in case of an accident or just a human error exercise –  you know the Hawaii false alarm.

Moreover, many of today’s nukes are hundreds of times more powerful than the two atom bombs dropped in Japan more than 50 years ago.

If a nuclear war were to break out today, nuclear winter might kill most people on Earth, not only in the US.

While the map show a general nuclear targets in case of a war, weather patterns would play a role in how many people would be affected by the nuclear fallout. You can still have some protection from a nuke if you are close to a shelter and have enough time to protect yourself.

These are the three factors for protecting from radiation and fallout:

  • Distance – the more distance between you and the nuke, the better for you. An underground area such as a homemade shelter or office building basement offers more protection than the first floor of a building.
  • Shielding – the heavier and denser the materials – thick walls, concrete, bricks, books and earth – between you and the fallout particles, the better.
  • Time – fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time, you will be able to leave the fallout shelter. Radioactive fallout poses the greatest threat to people during the first two weeks, by which time it has declined to about 1 percent of its initial radiation level.

So, basically these factors affect a lot your cover possibilities. It’s clear that shelter and position has a role in that, but the aftermath is not such a great scenario.

Back to the US, almost every state would suffer from the strikes, with only South Dakota and Idaho expected to be hit less than five times each. I don’t know if this is something that matters mentioned, but according to a study made in 2012, a nuclear war using as few as 100 weapons anywhere in the world would disrupt the global climate and agricultural production so severely that the lives of more than two billion people would be in jeopardy.

What happens in case of a blast?

Around a third of the energy of an atomic bomb is released through its thermal radiation. This travels at around the speed of light, so the first thing you’ll see is a blinding flash of light and heat. A lot of heat.

For a one-megaton bomb, you’ll likely be temporarily blinded if you were standing 20 miles away on a clear day, or 50 miles away on a clear night.

That’s before we even get on to the radiation poisoning. Radiation of 600 REM has a 90% chance of death. That drops by half when you hit 450 REM, but you’re not out of the woods then, with increased chances of cancer and potential genetic mutations.

However those safest from attack will be housed in the thousands of person nuclear attack bunkers located across America – and several top-secret super bunkers.

One such facility is the huge, underground Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado.

The massive site is dug into the side of a mountain and impermeable to missile strikes. It also previously housed the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) which would be vital during a future nuclear war.

Cheyenne Mountain Complex
Cheyenne Mountain Complex via

Apparently fallout is mostly dangerous for two weeks, which means it’s a good idea to stay in your bunker for at least a fortnight. After that you can venture out into the world and put into practice all the vital lessons you learned about surviving.

The nuclear freeze movement, the discovery of nuclear winter, and the end of the Cold War led countries to slash the global nuclear stockpile by about 75%. The superpowers pledged to continue nuclear disarmament in §6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but the last decade has seen little progress, and deteriorating US-North-Koreea relations have recently triggered talks of a second cold war.

When it comes to a nuclear war, it’s not the case that the side with the biggest arsenal wins – more that everybody loses and it will be really difficult to survive.

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