Abstract

The moment magnitude M 4.4 on 12 December 2018 Decatur, Tennessee, earthquake occurred in the eastern Tennessee seismic zone. Although the causative fault is not known, the earthquake had a predominantly strike‐slip mechanism with an estimated hypocentral depth of about 8 km. It was felt over a distance of 500 km stretching from Southern Kentucky to Georgia. Strong shaking, capable of causing slight damage, was reported near the epicenter. The Watts Bar nuclear power plant (NPP) is only 4.9 km from the epicenter of the earthquake and experienced only slight shaking. The earthquake was recorded by the plant’s seismic strong‐motion instrumentation installed at four different locations. Near‐real‐time calculations by the plant operators indicated that the operating basis earthquake (OBE) ground motion was not exceeded during the earthquake. We obtained and processed the recorded motions to calculate corrected accelerations, velocities, and displacements. In addition, we computed the Fourier and 5% damped response spectra to compare them with the plant’s OBE. Comparisons of the ground‐motion prediction models with the digital recordings at the plant site indicated that recorded ground motions were significantly below the predicted results calculated using the ground‐motion prediction models approved for regulatory use. Availability of high‐quality, digital recordings in this case helped make a quick decision about the ground motions not exceeding the OBE and hence prevented unnecessary shutdown of the NPP. Availability of earthquake recordings from the four locations in the NPP also presented an opportunity to analyze the linear response of plant structures.

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