Idaho National Lab’s Seismic Analysis and Isolation

Idaho National Lab’s Seismic Analysis and Isolation

Dept. of Energy

Laboratory: Idaho National Laboratory (INL)

Technology: Seismic Analysis and Isolation

Opportunity: Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and its Management and Operation (M&O) contractor Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC (BEA) are currently seeking commercialization partner(s) interested in entering into a license agreement to commercialize the technology described below.

Details: Earthquakes can cause severe damage to infrastructure, which can create further problems that can be difficult to manage, e.g., a dam leaking or breaking, or a water-cooled nuclear reactor possibly losing cooling and melting down. Seismic analysis for sites currently uses linear codes that are decades old and make many simplifying assumptions that considerably under-predict a structure’s performance. These codes are also extremely nonintuitive and require full manual creation of the model parameters, resulting in a very small group of engineers who understand the tools and are able to work with them. Furthermore, minor model parameter errors can lead to grossly inaccurate results. These analyses lead to designs that are overly conservative and greatly increase the cost and material requirements for construction and, in some cases, increase future risk.

The costs for adapting a standard design, such as a nuclear power plant, to the specific seismic conditions of a building site can greatly increase cost and build time. Seismic isolation is a term applied to structure modifications that mitigate seismic damage. While mature methods and technologies exist for seismically isolating bridges and buildings, this isolation is focused on the base of the structure. Studies have shown that great economic benefit can be achieved by isolating specific large components of a building, such as turbines or steam generators.

Researchers at INL have developed computer codes that will assess the nonlinear seismic response between the ground, the structure, and systems/components within the structure. The codes are relatively easy to learn, automatically apply gravity and earthquake forces (which current codes do not), and provide built-in guidance for selecting critical model parameters. Because the codes are nonlinear, they more accurately predict a building's seismic response and allow for more efficient structure design.

The INL codes are designed to be a multi-hazard risk assessment solution performing, among other things, an assessment of the effects of severe accidents or internal events and facilitating tests for seismic isolation of the structure's base or major components. This streamlined, robust, multi-hazard analysis helps engineers to optimize their design, allows construction to be completed at lower cost, and enables owners to manage their risk profile.


  • Nonlinear analysis more accurately predicts building and soil responses to seismic forces
  • Large subsystem/component-level analysis
  • Greatly enhanced user interface allows for firms to have specialists in the software
  • Able to optimize costs during building and retrofit


  • Large infrastructure design and retrofit
  • Complex system design and siting, such as power plants and manufacturing centers
  • Insurance companies
  • Earthquake-resistant construction

Contact: For more information about this technology, contact Arthur Baker at or (208) 526-1872.

To view the original INL technology listing, visit

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