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The 2011 Mineral, Virginia, earthquake is one of the larger recorded seismic events occurring east of the Rocky Mountains since seismic instrumentation was first deployed. The operation of the North Anna nuclear power station (NANPS), located ~22 km northeast of the epicenter, was affected by the earthquake vibration. This moderate event caused the first incident in which a commercial U.S. nuclear power plant experienced a safe shutdown as a result of earthquake ground motion. Post-earthquake investigations confirmed that important safety-related structures, systems, and components (SSCs) at the NANPS did not have any detectable damage. Damage at the NANPS consisted of cracking and spalling of some of the non-safety-related ancillary structures, and the plant was restarted after three months of intensive inspections and reviews.

Response spectra developed from the recorded ground motion at the NANPS showed a modest exceedance of the plant seismic design levels for safety-related SSCs, but these SSCs were not damaged and maintained their functionality. The NANPS performance, in combination with other global examples, shows that nuclear power plants have been able to function safely even when earthquake ground motions exceeded the design levels of the SSCs. In this paper we describe the observed earthquake effects at the NANPS and discuss the original geologic and seismic characterization of the plant site. We also discuss the impacts of other earthquakes on the performance of various nuclear power plants, and previous and current seismic hazard and risk evaluations for U.S. nuclear power plants.

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