Study: AP1000 Shield Building Exceeds U.S. Design Requirements for Earthquakes

Large-scale testing has shown that the AP1000 reactor design currently under review by U.S. regulators uses a concrete shell sufficiently strong to resist earthquakes, aircraft impacts and other disasters, Westinghouse announced Thursday.

Research commissioned by the company and carried out by scientists at Purdue University's Bowen Laboratory indicated the steel-sandwiched concrete planned for the reactor's exterior building is both flexible and strong enough to exceed requirements for earthquake mitigation in federal regulations.

"We conducted a large-scale testing program that included more than twenty full-scale tests on the fundamental out-of-plane behavior, in-plane behavior, anchorage performance and composite behavior of the steel-concrete composite design used for the shield building," Amit H. Varma, a Purdue associate engineering professor and  director of the Center for Structural Engineering and Emerging Technologies for Nuclear Power Plants, said in a Westinghouse release. "Some of our test specimens were 40 feet long and 3 feet by 3 feet in cross-sections, requiring the use of our two 30-ton capacity cranes to lift and place in the test setup. The specimens were tested using multiple hydraulic rams capable of exerting 1 million pounds of force each. We had carefully designed and deployed sensors to measure the fundamental behavior and load carrying capacity of the specimens."

The AP1000 is a Generation III pressurized water reactor design under review in the U.S. and Europe and currently under construction in China. The 1154 megawatt net electrical output design incorporates passive safety features that allow the plant to shutdown automatically in the absence of external power or operator action.

The release stated Westinghouse will forward data from the shield-building research to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is in the process of licensing the design.

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