This report describes a new seismic source characterization model for the Central and Eastern United States (CEUS) for use in probabilistic seismic hazard analysis (PSHA) for nuclear facilities. PSHA has become a generally accepted procedure for supporting seismic design, seismic safety and decision making for both industry and government. Input to a PSHA consists of seismic source characterization (SSC) and ground motion characterization (GMC); these two components are necessary to calculate probabilistic hazard results (or seismic hazard curves) at a particular geographic location. 

The 1986 Electric Power Research Institute and Seismicity Owners Group (EPRI-SOG) study included both an SSC and GMC component. Recent applications for new commercial reactors have followed U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulatory guidance (RG 1.208) by using the EPRI-SOG source model as a starting point and updating it as appropriate on a site-specific basis. This CEUS-SSC Project has developed a new SSC model for the CEUS to replace the SSC component of the EPRI-SOG study.

The CEUS-SSC Project was conducted using a Senior Seismic Hazard Analysis Committee (SSHAC) Level 3 process, as described in the NRC publication, Recommendations for Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Analysis: Guidance on Uncertainty and Use of Experts (NUREG/CR-6372). The goal of the SSHAC process is to represent the center, body, and range of technically defensible interpretations of the available data, models, and methods. The CEUS-SSC model is applicable to any site within the CEUS and can be used with the EPRI 2004/2006 GMC model to calculate seismic hazard at any site of interest. Long-term efforts to replace the EPRI 2004/2006 GMC model with the Next Generation Attenuation Relationships for Central and Eastern North America obtained from the NGA-East Project is scheduled for completion in 2014.

The updated CEUS-SSC model provides industry and government with the following: a new model for the commercial nuclear industry to perform PSHAs for future reactor license applications; the NRC to support its review of early site permit (ESP) and construction and operating license (COL) applications; and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support modern PSHAs to meet design and periodic review requirements for its current and future nuclear facilities. Specific benefits of the model are as follows:

  • Consistency: For many sites, seismic sources at distances up to 300 km (186 mi.) or more significantly contribute to hazard at some spectral frequencies. Consequently, seismic hazard models for many sites have significant geologic overlap. If done separately, there is a likelihood of conflicting assessments for the same regions. A regional source model allows for consistent input into a PSHA. An updated conceptual SSC framework that provides a Sponsors’ Perspective consistent basis for identifying and characterizing seismic sources in the CEUS has been developed. The NRC will no longer need to review each time each applicant’s regional SSC model when the accepted CEUS-SSC model is used. This will avoid lengthy review of the regional SSC model in ESP and COL applications for sites within the CEUS that use the accepted regional CEUS-SSC model to develop its site-specific SSC model.
  • Stability: This CEUS-SSC model was developed using the accepted state-of-practice SSHAC methodology that involved the following tasks:

    • Development of a comprehensive database and new tools for documenting the data consideration process.
    • Multiple workshops to identify applicable data, debate alternative hypotheses, and discuss feedback.
    • Multiple working meetings by the Technical Integration (TI) Team to develop the SSC model and fully incorporate uncertainties.
    • Technical advancements in a number of areas, such as developing a uniform earthquake catalog, developing an updated approach for assessing maximum magnitude, compiling data evaluation tables, incorporating paleoseismic data, and using spatial smoothing tools.
    • Participatory peer review, including four panel briefings, multiple interactions, and periodic formal feedback.
    • Proper documentation of all process and technical aspects of the project.

Experience has shown that stability is best achieved through proper and thorough characterization of our knowledge and uncertainties, coupled with the involvement of the technical community, regulators, and oversight groups.

  • Greater Longevity: An explicit goal of the SSHAC methodology is to represent the center, body, and range of the technically defensible interpretations of the available data, models, and methods. Using the SSHAC process provides reasonable assurance that this goal has been achieved. Representing the center, body, and range of interpretations at the time of the study means that as new information is acquired and various interpretations evolve as a result, the current thinking at any point is more likely to be addressed in the study. As new information becomes available, an existing SSC will require periodic reviews to evaluate the implications of the new findings. The need for updates to a particular study is now better understood as a result of findings of the CEUS-SSC Project sensitivity studies to determine the significance of source characteristics.
  • Cost and Schedule Savings: The CEUS-SSC model can be used to perform a PSHA at any geographic location within the CEUS. It is applicable at any point within the CEUS, subject to site-specific refinements required by facility-specific regulations or regulatory guidance. Having stable, consistent input into a regional PSHA will reduce the time and cost required to complete a commercial nuclear site’s ESP or COL licensing application, prepare a DOE site’s PSHA, and develop design input for new commercial and DOE mission-critical nuclear facilities.
  • Advancement of Science: The CEUS-SSC Project provides new data, models, and methods. This information was shared at three workshops with international observers as a means to provide technology transfer for application in other regions. The CEUS-SSC earthquake catalog, which merges and reconciles several catalogs and provides a uniform moment magnitude for all events, and the CEUS-SSC paleoliquefaction database provide a new baseline for future research and updates. New approaches used in this project for spatial smoothing of recurrence parameters, assessment of maximum magnitude, and systematical documentation of all data considered and evaluated also benefit future research and PSHA updates. 


The sponsors of the CEUS-SSC Project are utilities and vendors on the EPRI Advanced Nuclear Technology Action Plan Committee, the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, the DOE Office of the Chief of Nuclear Safety, and the NRC Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research. Technical experts from the DOE, NRC, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board (DNFSB) participated in the study as part of the TI Team or as members of the Participatory Peer Review Panel (PPRP). 

The product of the CEUS-SSC Project is a robust peer-reviewed regional CEUS-SSC model for use in PSHAs. This model will be applicable to the entire CEUS, providing an important baseline for future research and updates. The CEUS-SSC Project demonstrates that a SSHAC Level 3 approach can achieve the goals of considering the knowledge and uncertainties of the larger technical community within a robust and transparent framework. The value of the new CEUS-SSC model has been enhanced by the participation of key stakeholders from industry, government, and academia who were part of the CEUS-SSC Project Team. 

Looking forward, the NRC will publish NUREG-2117 (2012), Practical Implementation of Guidelines or SSHAC Level 3 and 4 Hazard Studies that provides SSHAC guidance on the need to update a regional model. The guidance covers updating both regional and site-specific assessments. It addresses the "refinement" process of starting with a regional model and refining it for site-specific applications.

CEUS-SSC Project Website