We can never seem to shake the constant threat of self-annihilation as a species. Multiple countries now have significant nuclear arsenals, and it seems that one significant conflagration could lead to a worst-case scenario. To that end, it doesn’t hurt to be informed about where the safest and least safe areas are around the globe are, were a nightmare situation to occur.
In the event of Nuclear Warfare, the safest countries and areas typically are low in population, have little military presence, and are far from large cities and capitals. High-population cities such as London, New York, Tokyo, or Hong Kong are unsafe as potential targets.
Based on my research of numerous sources, this is the consensus on the least safe and most safe areas in the world in the event of a nuclear attack.
This map is based on average outcomes based on modeling and predictions. Keep in mind that nowhere is truly safe, and this map simply represents the best guess. Bombs can stray off target, and wind patterns can vary during the seasons.
Also, please note that due to this being a map of the entire world, the areas are not denoted with pinpoint accuracy. Instead, the goal here is to give a general idea of the safest and least safe areas of the world.
Nuclear Target Zones
To be aware of what safe and unsafe nuclear areas are, we should quickly familiarize ourselves with what exactly a nuclear target map, or zones, are.
In layman’s terms, a nuclear target map/zones indicate where the potential danger zones for nuclear strikes could take place. It lays out areas of the world where they are seen as high-value targets for direct nuclear strikes, neighboring areas within the blast radius, areas that will be affected by the aftermath of a nuclear detonation (i.e., fallout clouds), and areas that could remain relatively safe from both blast and aftermath effects.
We should also note that world nuclear target maps and zones do not consider nuclear power plants, for example. The target map and zones are primarily focused on nuclear strikes engaged by any nation with such a nuclear arsenal. So, if one lives next to a nuclear power plant, it may still be considered safe from nuclear strikes, while the opposite can happen. Just be aware of this throughout the article.
Targets in the United States
To begin this, we will address specific countries that would most likely attract nuclear aggression both voluntarily and involuntarily, such as the United States, and specify any major states and cities, if applicable, within the country that would display such nuclear vulnerability.
First, let’s start off with the United States.
It should come as no surprise that the US itself will be an attractive nuclear target for many other nations, such as Russia, China, and North Korea.
The US has been one of the most dominant nations regarding a host of nuclear arsenals, with around 5,550 bomb counts, second to Russia’s 6,490 bomb counts of nuclear arsenal.
The US is one of the countries that would, for sure, be a hotspot for nuclear strikes considering its accumulated history of dealing with a nuclear power, such as the Manhattan Project that resulted in the creation of the two atomic bombs that were dropped on the Japanese islands of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and the intense conflict between the US and the Soviet Union all throughout the Cold War era.
Tensions have never been higher when talking about the US relationship with other nuclear-powered nations.
Overall, in terms of nuclear safety of a country, the US, in its entirety, would be near the bottom and highly vulnerable to nuclear attacks.
US States and Cities
Concentrating on some specific states and cities, these will depend on both population size and strategic values.
Starting with three unsafe areas of the US:
- Washington D.C.: Whatever city or state will perhaps be the first set of targets, nothing could be as obvious as Washington D.C. itself. Washington, D.C., has the White House, the Pentagon, Supreme Court, and the Senate and House Office buildings, to name a few. Washington D.C. also has about 671,803 residents living within it, making it another factor of being an attractive target.
- New York: With an incredible population size of about 19 million and also containing vital and important governmental structure and facilities that operate with finances, energy plants, and transmission systems, for example, is another nuclear strike-prone state. New York, NY, would specifically be a city at higher risk for such nuclear strikes.
- Florida: With a population slightly higher than New York’s at 21.5 million, respectively, Florida is another excellent place for others to commence a nuclear strike on. Not only of its population size and the high count of governmental facilities, but it also could be considered a state in an isolated location. Isolated, meaning that the state of Florida is easily exposed due to its natural, extended geographical form. Alaska could be considered isolated, too but is not listed as a high-risk area for nuclear strikes. Before we move on, we should also note that the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 was one situation that was near nuclear war, and Florida was right in its crosshairs.
Three safe areas of the US:
- Maine: For the state of Maine, it lacks many important and vital facilities that would warrant a nuclear strike. The relatively low population size of 1.3 million also makes it not worth striking since maximum causalities are the goal of most nuclear strikes. Along with a lack of important facilities and a small population size, Maine generally does not have enough urbanization for such development, at least for now.
- Oregon: Despite Oregon being a handy dry dock facility useful for naval activities, it remains a state that would normally be free from nuclear strikes. Again, the lack of facilities and low population size (4.2 million) makes Oregon a relatively safe place.
- Idaho: Lastly, Idaho is nothing but potato farmland. Idaho brings nothing to the table regarding governmental facilities and population size (1.9 million). To be honest, striking Idaho with nuclear weapons would be a waste of resources regarding strategic value.
Just keep in mind that being anywhere in the US pretty much would subject you to the strong likelihood of dealing with at least some radioactive fallout. There really is nowhere truly safe in the Northern Hemisphere; only relatively safe.
For more on US targets, be sure to check out my article called US Nuclear Target Map: Most Safe and Unsafe Areas.
Targets in Europe
Now that we have extensively discussed possible safe and unsafe areas of the US during nuclear strikes, it’s time to shift over to Europe. Although we have delved into the US extensively, we will treat Europe as a single “country” as many nations are compiled into a small geographical that doesn’t seem necessary to list each nation one by one. Plus, readers may not be as familiar with European areas compared to the US.
Beginning with three unsafe areas of the European region:
- Russia: Due to recent events in Ukraine and the history of Russia entirely, Russia stands today as one of the largest threats of nuclear war in the European region. Formerly known as the Soviet Union (USSR) in the 20th century, Russia has had many histories of contention with other nations. In particular, the US is their biggest rival in North America. Nuclear cities such as Sarov, Snezhinsk, and Zarechnyy could be targets for nuclear strikes, along with other major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, both with millions of residents.
- France: France is a country that one may not think owns many nuclear arsenals; however, one may be surprised to know that they have quite a bit of nuclear arsenals. Not that much compared to both Russia and the US, but more than expected. Cities like Paris are going to be another hotspot for nuclear strikes due to their population size (11.2 million) and popularity.
- United Kingdom: The United Kingdom is slightly below France regarding ownership of nuclear arsenals. The UK would be a place where nuclear strikes would target because of the geographical design. The UK is basically an island off the west coast of Europe, and with nuclear strikes involved, it could easily bring the UK into submission, depending on the method and pattern of attacks. Cities like London will certainly be the first known targets because of its governmental facilities and businesses.
The known nuclear arsenals across the world are as follows:
- Russia: 6,490
- United States: 5,550
- China: 350
- France: 290
- The United Kingdom: 225
- Pakistan: 165
- India: 156
- Israel: 90
- North Korea: 50
Now with three safe areas in Europe:
- Iceland: Just southeast of Greenland, Iceland is a country that is isolated and safe from harm, hopefully. We could also add Greenland to this as both are similar in lack of resources and population size, and it is hard to reach for nuclear strikes. In other words, the missiles would be intercepted because of the large North Atlantic Ocean’s isolated space.
- Norway: When looking at Norway’s geographical location, it is very isolated, underpopulated, and not worth initiating a nuclear strike against. There is not much in Norway to waste resources on. The only thing that would happen is creating more unnecessary potholes.
- Switzerland: From its history of being a neutral country throughout world conflicts, such as avoiding both world wars, Switzerland has remained this way ever since. It is considered one of the safest countries due to its previous history and its geographical landscape, as the country is surrounded by large mountains, making it difficult to be invaded or worth the time to invade. For nuclear war, its current neutral state could change, but going off what we know now with the country, it is generally safe.
Related The 12 Safest Places to Live in the World in a Nuclear War.
Targets in Asia
Shifting over to the Asian regions, it has a couple of countries that would most definitely attract nuclear strikes. As with the European regions, we will treat Asia as a single “country” and focus vaguely on specific countries that would be considered safe and unsafe during a nuclear war.
Three unsafe regions of Asia:
- China: Who would’ve guessed that China is a country that isn’t safe to be in during a nuclear war? So far, China is considered either the 3rd or 4th country to have the most nuclear weapons in the world. After the US and Russia, the ownership of nuclear weapons is heavily reduced and consistent across all other nations. China is a powerful nation, and living within it during a nuclear war would not be ideal. Finding remote land across mainland China could be safe but don’t hope on this.
- North Korea: This one should be blatantly obvious. North Korea is the most secretive country in the world, and if you are reading this, we hope you aren’t in North Korea. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. Based on countless new headlines and media, North Korea has nuclear weapons and will be a guaranteed target if North Korea gets involved in nuclear warfare.
- Japan: Though compared to China and North Korea, Japan isn’t perceived as a major threat in a nuclear war. However, due to its small size and proximity to China, it can indirectly be devastated by these nuclear weapons. Leave Japan if nuclear war ever breaks out.
Three safe regions of Asia:
- Nepal: Having been squeezed between two countries: India and China, Nepal is a great place to be safe from nuclear strikes. Much like Switzerland, it is well-secluded within the mountains, and its mountains act as a natural radiation shield, minimizing any fallout.
- Sri Lanka: Much like both Greenland and Iceland, Sri Lanka is an island isolated from the continent and is rarely, if ever, seen as a nuclear threat. Again, not much effort will be taken to strike Sri Lanka.
- Republic of the Marshall Islands: If one wants to really stay safe, the many islands on the Marshall Islands are their best bet. It is widely scattered just northeast of the coral sea, and wasting nuclear strikes on these would be comical. Less of a priority as the Marshall Islands hold no significant governmental importance regarding nuclear involvement.
Other Likely Safe Areas
To conclude this article, we will finally address some other miscellaneous countries that would likely be reasonably safe during a nuclear war.
- Canada: For the country of Canada, it is considered a relatively safe country to live in during a nuclear war. For one, if a nuclear strike happened anywhere in Canada, the US would immediately deter further threats by initiating war on whatever country attacked its neighboring one. The landscape of Canada is rural, and residents are spread extensively throughout. Of course, any area in the northern hemisphere is subject to radioactive fallout. If wind patterns are not in your favor, no one is safe, even in the middle of nowhere.
- Australia/New Zealand: Having as its own continent and country, Australia would be least likely to be involved in nuclear strikes. Its isolation and lack of nuclear involvement throughout history makes it a safe haven if nuclear war broke out. New Zealand is in a similar boat as Australia as being isolated from the rest of the world and not high in priorities for nuclear strikes.
- Africa: Nearly most of Africa is not worth spending nuclear strikes on as it wouldn’t result much due to the already poor condition that most of Africa is in and, obviously, no major nuclear involvement.
- South America: Lastly, South America poses no nuclear threat to the already nuclear-powered nations and is likely not worth striking. This is potentially a highly safe place to go.
When it comes to nuclear devices and weapons in the hands of the government, we shouldn’t be surprised to know that tensions between many nuclear-powered nations are at an all-time high. This is either due to previous conflicts that have continued to spark contention against one another or for the purpose of preserving oneself and another nation’s way of life via nuclear deterrents.
If nuclear war was ever initiated by a nuclear-powered nation, then we all will find ourselves in a highly critical situation as to where the safest places one might find refuge.
I hope this article has been informative.
Thanks for reading!
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Hey, I’m Jim, and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!