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14 December 2023

Seismic Protection Requirements for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs): A Balancing Act

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are gaining traction as a potential future solution for clean energy generation. However, ensuring their safety in earthquake-prone areas requires careful consideration of seismic protection requirements. This article explores the key aspects of seismic protection for SMRs.BOOK A CALL

Site-Specific Ground Motion Analysis:

The crucial first step is understanding the ground shaking potential at the proposed SMR site. This involves comparing a site-specific seismic design response spectrum with the Certified Seismic Design Response Spectrum (CSDRS) of the specific SMR design. This ensures the plant can withstand earthquakes at or below its design level.

For initial screening, a single estimate like peak ground acceleration (PGA) can be used. However, detailed ground motion analysis through response spectra becomes essential for final site selection. Additionally, existing data from previously studied sites can be leveraged to enhance confidence in the analysis.

Locating SMRs on existing licenced nuclear sites is obviously a primary consideration as the seismic design requirements are already well understood.

Innovations in SMR Seismic Protection:

For SMRs to be truly modular the design and build needs to be as independent as possible from the site seismic design response spectrum, otherwise potential locations become limited and ongoing modifications to the design unavoidable.

For this reason, proposed SMR design concepts incorporate seismic bearings for base isolation. This system decouples the reactor island from the ground, protecting it from damaging horizontal shaking. This allows for a standardised superstructure regardless of the site's specific seismic activity.

Another innovative approach being considered is a floating seismic isolation system (FSIS). This system utilises air cavities and water to dampen and dissipate seismic energy, offering adaptability to various site conditions and reducing horizontal and vertical shaking of the SMR plant.

Balancing Safety and Efficiency:

While robust seismic protection is paramount, it's essential to find a balance with cost-effectiveness and regulatory compliance. SMR designers are constantly innovating to achieve this balance, exploring modularisation, off-site manufacturing, and advanced seismic isolation technologies.

Public perception and concerns regarding nuclear safety, including seismic risks, need to be addressed through transparent communication and education. Continuous research and development is key to improve SMR seismic protection technologies and further enhance public confidence.

Sensonics are playing a key role in the SMR market by working with the industry to provide state of the art seismic monitoring solutions that fit with the modular approach. Real-time data from these systems is crucial for monitoring the plant's response during and after an earthquake, as well as assessing safety and making informed decisions about restarting the plant. You can learn more about how we can help you by calling us on 01442 876833 or filling out our contact form here.

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