Best place to survive nuclear war in the U.S. (2024)

In the wake of President Biden's mention of nuclear "armageddon", and Elon Musk tweeting that "nuclear war probability is rising rapidly," it is natural that people have pondered online what they would do, and where they would shelter, in the event of a nuclear war.

But, the safest place to go in the case of a nuclear bomb being detonated depends on where the bomb is targeted, as well as the size of the nuclear weapons, the time of year, the weather conditions, and variety of other factors, meaning the safest location will vary considerably.

Some estimates name Maine, Oregon, Northern California, and Western Texas as some of the safest locales in the case of nuclear war, due to their lack of large urban centers and nuclear power plants.

Nuclear bombs use heavy, unstable isotopes of radioactive elements to release immense amounts of energy, unleashing destruction on a site of choice.

Best place to survive nuclear war in the U.S. (1)

The U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945 killed many hundreds of thousands of civilians using nuclear fission bombs, with their uranium and plutonium fuels undergoing almost instantaneous chain reaction of atom splitting, releasing the equivalent energy of 15,000 and 21,000 tons of TNT, respectively.

Modern nuclear weapons are 20 to 30 times more powerful than those used on Japan, according to Business Insider. Russia and the U.S. each have between 5,000 and 6,000 nuclear weapons, while China has 350, France has 290, the U.K. has 225, and India and Pakistan each have around 160.

While there is no sure way to know where a nuclear bomb would be dropped, we can assume that they would initially be targeted at large and important population centers in the U.S., such as New York City or Washington D.C.

Nuclear war probability is rising rapidly

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 9, 2022

At the epicenter of the bomb, the shockwave of searing hot air would flatten most structures in its path, burning anything flammable.

"I am of the view that a rural area which is not downwind of a obvious target is the best place if you want to avoid fallout and other effects of the bomb. A good place would be a valley where the hills would give you some protection from heat and blast from bombs which go off [miles] from where you are," Dr Mark R. StJ Foreman, an associate professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, Sweden, told Newsweek.

Aside from the initial blast of fire and shockwaves from the bomb detonations, a nuclear war would have ripple effects throughout the entire country, with radiation being transferred via winds, as well as extreme weather patterns occurring due to the disruption to the atmosphere.

"I would want to be in a place where it is easy to dig a shelter or adapt an existing structure to provide protection if fallout was to be scattered over the land. I suspect that even if the nearest bomb detonation was a long way away that you might need to shelter for some days to reduce your radiation exposure," said Foreman.

"A railway tunnel would be a good place to hide if you know for sure that the trains will not be moving around. Another option would be to park a car above a motor mechanics inspection trench. Pack the inside of the car with sacks of soil. Then go under the car. The soil in the car and the fact you are underground would then shield you from gamma rays."

Even if you were outside of the area close to the detonation, radioactive fallout from the bomb may reach you via wind and rain. Radioactive dust can be blown many hundreds of miles and be inhaled, and also caught in rain clouds, falling to Earth in the water system.

"A good place to be would be in an area which is in a rain shadow, the Rocky Mountains cause the rain clouds to release their water as rain. If you go further east from the Rockies then you will end up in a rain shadow," Foreman said. "I would want to be in a rain shadow as rain can bring a lot of fallout out of the sky.

"I would want to be in an area where there is clay soil and some underground water which I can drill a well into. I would want a supply of groundwater after the nuclear war is over, by using water which has passed through soil and rocks the vast majority of the radioactivity will be filtered out of it.

"Also if you put some clean clay type soil in a bucket with rain water then stir it up then the majority of the radioactivity will bind tightly onto the clay. This would allow you to decontaminate the water."

Radiation sickness caused by the fallout can kill, depending on the intensity of exposure. Radiation can affect the gastrointestinal system, the bone marrow and the circulatory system, which can result in rapid death, or at lower doses, may cause cancers of the thyroid and other organs.

In the aftermath of a nuclear attack, the journey to rebuilding civilization would be a long and hard one.

After the U.S. bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it took years to restore the cities to their former functionality. In the case of multiple cities in the U.S. being bombed, it is likely that recovery would take much longer, with resources being spread wider.

"While surviving a large-scale nuclear attack is possible, the challenges post-detonation are to reconnect infrastructure and to reestablish supply lines," Kathryn A. Higley, a professor at the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Oregon State University, told Newsweek. "That would potentially be a large undertaking."

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Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Best place to survive nuclear war in the U.S. (2024)


Best place to survive nuclear war in the U.S.? ›

The best locations are underground and in the middle of larger buildings. While commuting, identify appropriate shelters to seek in the event of a detonation. Outdoor areas, vehicles and mobile homes do NOT provide adequate shelter. Look for basem*nts or the center of large multi-story buildings.

Where is the safest place in the US if there is a nuclear war? ›

Parts of California, Florida and Texas that are away from their big cities like San Francisco, Miami and Houston are ideal because they are near water and have good weather. 'If you're near water you will always be near food and water that can be ingested after it has been desalinated,' said Ragusa.

What cities would the US target in a nuclear war? ›

In any nuclear war with the US, New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC, may be the most probable targets because most of financial institutions are located there. Cities like Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, and Philadelphia could also be caught in the crosshairs of a nuclear war.

How long do you have to stay underground after a nuclear attack? ›

Remain in the most protective location (basem*nt or center of a large building) for the first 24 hours unless threatened by an immediate hazard (e.g., fire, gas leak, building collapse, or serious injury) or informed by authorities that it is safe to leave.

How long would it take for radiation to clear after a nuclear war? ›

Although the dangerous radiation levels will subside rapidly over the first few days, residual radiation from the long half-life fission products (such as 90Sr, 106Ru, 137Cs, 147Pm, and 155Eu) will become the main contributions to exposure (after about 10 years).

Where to buy a house to survive a nuclear war? ›

Another real estate expert, Agent Editorial Board chair Jasen Edwards, suggested the Midwest and southeast due to their access to fresh water and farmland, and the Rocky Mountains which are difficult for nuclear warheads to reach.

Where is the safest place to live if ww3 happens? ›

  • Fiji. ...
  • Greenland. ...
  • Iceland. ...
  • Indonesia. ...
  • New Zealand. ...
  • South Africa. ...
  • Switzerland. ...
  • Tuvalu. Formerly known as the Ellice Islands, Tuvalu is located in the Pacific Ocean, roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia.
Jan 18, 2024

How far away from a nuke is safe? ›

Severe shockwave damage could extend to about a half mile. Severe thermal damage would extend out about a mile. Flying debris could extend up to a few miles. Initial (prompt) nuclear radiation for a 10-Kt blast could expose unprotected people within about 3/4 mile of the explosion site to lethal radiation dose.

How long would a nuclear winter last? ›

No one knows for sure how long the aftermath of a nuclear winter would last. It is projected that a nuclear winter would last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years or, in the worst-case scenario, a decade or more.

What is the probability of nuclear war? ›

A 1% chance of nuclear war in the next 40 years becomes 99% after 8,000 years. Sooner or later, the odds will turn against us. Even if we cut the risks by half every year, we can never get to zero.

How long should I stay indoors after a nuclear bomb? ›

If you are in a good shelter, plan on staying inside a minimum of 1 day and then wait for instructions from authorities about when to come out. By the end of the first day following a nuclear detonation, potential radiation exposure decreases by 80% (CBUPMC, 2011).

How do you purify water after a nuclear attack? ›

The EPA recommends reverse osmosis water treatment for most kinds of radioactive particles.

How many iodine pills protect against radiation? ›

12. What dosage of KI should be administered?
Age GroupKI DosageNumber of 65-mg tablets
Adults over 18 years130 mg2
Over 12 -18 years and over 150 pounds130 mg2
Over 12 -18 years and less than 150 pounds65 mg1
Over 3 -12 years65 mg1
2 more rows

How long is an area uninhabitable after a nuclear bomb? ›

One hour after a surface burst, the radiation from fallout in the crater region is 30 grays per hour (Gy/h). Civilian dose rates in peacetime range from 30 to 100 μGy per year. Fallout radiation decays relatively quickly with time. Most areas become fairly safe for travel and decontamination after three to five weeks.

How long after nuclear war is it safe to go outside? ›


You have been sheltered because of the potential for dangerous levels of radiation in the first 24 hours following a nuclear detonation. After 24 hours, outdoor radiation levels will have fallen significantly but may still warrant protective measures in your area.

Where is the safest place in the house during a nuclear war? ›

The best locations are underground and in the middle of larger buildings. While commuting, identify appropriate shelters to seek in the event of a detonation. Outdoor areas, vehicles and mobile homes do NOT provide adequate shelter. Look for basem*nts or the center of large multi-story buildings.

Where are you most likely to survive nuclear war? ›

Scientists have recently revealed that Australia and New Zealand are best placed to survive a nuclear apocalypse and help reboot collapsed human civilisation. The study, published in the journal Risk Analysis. These countries include not just Australia and New Zealand, but also Iceland, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

What would happen if a nuke hit Florida? ›

A single detonation of a 20-kiloton nuclear warhead—similar to North Korea's 2013 test—in a city like Tampa could result in catastrophic casualties, with fatalities exceeding 22,000 and injuries exceeding 40,000, according to the NUKEMAP nuclear bomb simulation tool created by historian Alex Wellerstein.

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