Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Assessing the seismic hazard of the central eastern United States

Date:
December 13, 2010
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
As the US policymakers renew emphasis on the use of nuclear energy in their efforts to reduce the country's oil dependence, other factors come into play. One concern of paramount importance is the seismic hazard at the site where nuclear reactors are located.

Virginia Tech associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Russell Green focuses on the study of paleoseismology to achieve a greater understanding of the probability of seismic events.
Credit: Provided by Virginia Tech

As the U.S. policy makers renew emphasis on the use of nuclear energy in their efforts to reduce the country's oil dependence, other factors come into play. One concern of paramount importance is the seismic hazard at the site where nuclear reactors are located.

Russell A. Green, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, spent five years as an earthquake engineer for the U.S. Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in Washington, D.C., prior to becoming a university professor. Part of his responsibility at the safety board was to perform seismic safety analyses on the nation's defense nuclear facilities.

"I found the greatest uncertainty in seismic analyses was related to the ground motions used in the analyses…Many of the facilities being analyzed were already built and operating, and the facilities were already heavily contaminated with radioactive material," Green said.

An immediate concern then became how and which buildings to retrofit. The balance in the decision-making process was between using overly conservative ground motions and potentially wasting "hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary retrofits" versus using less demanding motions and potentially "placing facility workers, neighboring towns, and cities at risk," Green added.

Green's concerns and expertise in earthquake engineering earned him a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2006 valued at more than $400,000. He has used this support for the development of procedures for collecting and analyzing data required for assessing the seismic hazard in regions where moderate to large earthquakes would have significant consequences, yet they remain low probability events.

Green said a "huge shift" in the engineering profession's approach to reducing seismic risk has occurred during the past decade. Building codes have been modified to include performance-based earthquake engineering (PBEE) concepts. This differs from the previous traditional design approach that used "life safety as the primary design goal," Green explained. "PBEE is based on the premise that performance can be predicted and evaluated with quantifiable confidence, allowing the engineer, together with the client, to make intelligent and informed trade-offs based on life-cycle considerations rather than construction costs alone."

To implement PBEE and to calculate the annual probability of specific losses due to seismic events, engineers need to know the fragility of structural systems and the probabilistically quantified seismic hazard.

To conduct his research, Green is focusing on paleoseismology, the study of the timing, location, and size of prehistoric/pre-instrumental earthquakes, ranging from those that occurred hundreds to tens of thousands of years ago.

"I believe that earthquake engineering encompasses geology, seismology, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, urban planning, and emergency response, " Green said.

"The appropriate selection of ground motions is particularly difficult because many critical facilities are located in the central and eastern U.S. and in the Pacific Northwest," Green said. "We know moderate to large earthquakes have occurred in these regions. We just do not know how large the events were, how often they occurred, or the characteristics of the associated ground shaking, such as duration, amplitude, and frequency content."

Unlike many places in the western U.S. where excavations can be used to determine the past movement on earthquake faults, in the central-eastern U.S. the locations of most faults are unknown and/or the faults are too deep to excavate. As a result, Green is concentrating his work on the development and validation of paleoliquefaction procedures. Soil liquefaction is the transition of soil from a solid to a liquefied state. Earthquakes are one cause of liquefaction, with the evidence of liquefaction often remaining in the soil profile for many thousands of years after the earthquake.

"Paleoliquefaction investigations are the most plausible way to determine the recurrence time of moderate to large earthquakes in the central-eastern U.S. ," Green said. "By extending the earthquake record into prehistoric times, paleoseismic investigations remove one of the major obstacles to implementing PBEE across the U.S."

To determine the age of a paleoliquefaction feature, researchers might use any one of a number of techniques, including: radiocarbon dating, optically stimulated luminescence, or archeological evidence.

Green said his work will address the "gaps in knowledge that typically stem from uncertainties related to analytical techniques used in back-calculations, the amount and quantity of paleoliquefaction data, and the significance of changes in the geotechnical properties of post-liquefied sediments such as aging and density changes."

In addition to his work studying paleoearthquakes, Green has also been involved in performing field studies of several recent earthquakes. He has performed post-earthquake field studies of the 2008 Mt. Carmel, Ill., magnitude 5.2 earthquake, the 2008 Iwate Miyagi-Nairiku, Japan, magnitude 6.9 earthquake, the 2010 Haiti, magnitude 7.0 earthquake, and the 2010 Darfield, New Zealand, magnitude 7.1 earthquake. The latter two field studies were National Science Foundation sponsored Geo-Engineering Extremes Events Reconnaissance (GEER) investigations, with Green serving as the US Team leader for the Darfield earthquake study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Assessing the seismic hazard of the central eastern United States." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101210100904.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (2010, December 13). Assessing the seismic hazard of the central eastern United States. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101210100904.htm
Virginia Tech. "Assessing the seismic hazard of the central eastern United States." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101210100904.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins