As tensions build with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the West faces an increased threat of nuclear warfare. A map created by U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shows the areas of the U.S. that are most likely to be targeted in the event of a nuclear conflict.
The map, originally created in 2015, has been resurfacing on social media as the possibility of a nuclear strike increases.
On the map (pictured above), the black dots represent targets in 2,000 warhead scenarios and the purple triangles represent targets in 500 scenarios. The red asterisks and squares represent state capitals and cities, respectively.
According to the map, the states with densely-clustered regions are those along the east coast, as well as California, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
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Major potential targets for an attack are active nuclear power plants, of which the U.S. has about 90. Some of these plants are located in Alabama, Arizona, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
Cities with critical infrastructure and dense populations show up as prime targets, including New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Irwin Redlener, a public health expert at Columbia University, has named these six cities as the most likely targets in the event of a nuclear attack.
In a theoretical breakdown of how a nuclear blast would affect its surroundings, the Daily Mail used a graphic showing the effects of a blast centered on New York’s financial district. The image shows the radius of the blast and the type of damage/danger that would be inflicted on the surrounding area and its residents based on the distance from the blast.
U.S. nuclear forces could also be targeted in a nuclear strike, and the U.S. has intentionally located these forces away from population centers.
Last year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned about the risk of nuclear conflict due to the escalation between Russian and Ukrainian forces. “Raising the alert of Russian nuclear forces is a bone-chilling development,” said Guterres.
Late last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened the use of nuclear weapons, accusing the West of “nuclear blackmail.”
“To defend Russia and our people, we doubtlessly will use all weapons resources at our disposal,” said Putin. “This is not a bluff.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu warned that the West is viewed as an enemy as Russia wages war on Ukraine. “We are not just fighting with Ukraine, but with the collective West,” said Shoigu.
Just last month, the U.S. State Department warned that Russia is not complying with the nuclear arms agreement – an accusation that Russia has denied.
In addition to the threat from Russia, the Pentagon has warned that China – which has more ground-based facilities capable of launching nuclear missiles than the U.S. – also poses a nuclear threat.