Nuclear Site Experience

Nuclear Siting Experience

Dr. McCalpin has worked on seismic hazard assessments for both existing and proposed nuclear power plants (NPPs), nuclear research laboratories, and high-level nuclear waste repositories. He specializes in seismic source characterization, particularly in regions where active faults have been poorly mapped or characterized.

Nuclear Siting Experience

Existing NPPs

Diablo Canyon NPP, California (2011-2012)

nuclear-siting-diablo-canyonClick for larger imageDr. McCalpin was a member of the 2012 External Review Team for the 2011 report by Pacific Gas & Electric on the newly-discovered Shoreline Fault, which lies just offshore of the NPP. Other team members were John Stamatakos of the Southwest Research Institute and Larry Anderson, consultant. The team reviewed the 2011 report, all of its original source data, and made a field visit in October 2011. In its unpublished report to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the team proposed the likely seismic source characteristics for the Shoreline fault. The report formed much of the basis for NRC Research Information Letter 12-01, published in September 2012


Proposed NPPs

South Africa Thyspunt NPP (2008-2009)
In 2008 and 2009 Dr. McCalpin performed a field study for seismic source characterization of four fault zones in the Cape Fold Belt (Kouga, Paul Sauer, Kango, and Baviaanskloof). This study was performed for the SA Council for Geoscience, in support of the Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment (PSHA; SSHAC Level 3) for the Eskom's Thyspunt nuclear power plant (4000 Mw NPP) on the south coast of South Africa. The Paul Sauer faults did not display evidence of displacement in any Quaternary deposits or Tertiary erosion surfaces, so were deemed nonseismogenic for the purposes of the PSHA.  The Kango fault displayed scarps across both Tertiary and Quaternary surfaces, with moderate vertical displacement per event (1.5-2 m), but very long recurrence intervals.

nuclear-siting-1st-trench-on-kango-fault-saClick for larger imageThe Kouga fault did not display scarps across Tertiary-Quaternary deposits, but due to gaps in those deposits along the fault, we concluded there was a 10% chance that the fault was seismogenic in the current stress regime. For the Baviannskloof fault this chance was estimated at 50%, based on linear anomalies across Tertiary erosion surfaces that may be tectonic. The PSHA was completed in 2013.


Existing Nuclear Research Laboratories

Los Alamos National Laboratory (1995-2012)

nuclear-siting-pajarito-escarpment-photoClick for larger imageDr. McCalpin was hired by this Federal weapons research facility to review the PSHA performed by Woodward-Clyde Consultants (1995) and to perform paleoseismic studies in support of revising WCC's logic trees for their PSHA. During 3 consecutive field seasons Dr. McCalpin mapped the Pajarito fault (dominant seismic source) and excavated 14 paleoseismic trenches across it. He also directed the geochronology work and use of the refined paleoseismic data in the revised PSHA. Results were published in 2005 paper:

McCalpin, J.P., 2005, Late Quaternary activity of the Pajarito fault, Rio Grande rift of northern New Mexico, USA; Tectonophysics, v. 408, no.1-4, p. 213-236. (Click to Download PDF File)

Thirteen years later Dr. McCalpin was invited to be a member of the 2012 External Review Team for the 2007 PSHA and its treatment of seismic sources, specifically the Pajarito Fault System. In its unpublished report to LANL the team concluded that the 2007 PSHA needed revision.

Other papers relating to the project:

· McCalpin, J.P., 2000, Late Quaternary faulting on the Pajarito fault, west of Los Alamos National Laboratory, north-central New Mexico; Summary Chronology of Quaternary Faulting Events; unpublished report submitted to Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico by GEO-HAZ Consulting, Inc., Estes Park, Colorado, April 10, 2000, 23 p.

· McCalpin, J.P., 1999, Late Quaternary faulting on the Pajarito fault, west of Los Alamos National Laboratory, north-central New Mexico; Results from seven trenches excavated in summer of 1998; Final Report: LANL report LA-UR-99-1120, submitted to Los Alamos National Laboratory. Los Alamos, NM by GEO-HAZ Consulting, Inc., Estes Park, CO, Aug. 31, 1998, 104 p.

· McCalpin, J.P., 1998, Late Quaternary faulting on the Pajarito fault, west of Los Alamos National Laboratory, north-central New Mexico; Results from the seven-trench transect excavated in summer of 1997: unpublished report submitted to Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM by GEO-HAZ Consulting, Inc., Estes Park, CO, May 9, 1998, 105 p. plus appendices.

· McCalpin, J.P., 1997, Geomorphology and structure of the Pajarito fault zone west of Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico: unpublished report submitted to Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, by GEO-HAZ Consulting, Inc., Estes Park, CO, April 9, 1997, 54 p. plus 12 oversized maps at 1:1200 scale.



Proposed Nuclear Waste Repositories

Yucca Mountain (Nevada) High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository (1995-1997)

nuclear-siting-yucca-mtn-tunnel2Click for larger imageDr. McCalpin was part of the expert team (Yucca Mountain PSHA Project) hired by the US Department of Energy to take the results of USGS paleoseismic studies, and use them to build a logic tree for the PSHA. There were 6 teams composed of 3 people each (1 seismologist, 1 paleoseismologist, and 1 expert in Nevada geology). Dr. McCalpinís team was Jon Ake, seismologist (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation); James P. McCalpin, paleoseismologist; and Burt Slemmons, Nevada expert (but also a paleoseismologist in his own right). Although most of the results (PSHA logic trees, hazard curve output) are contained only in unpublished reports to the client, an overview of results is published here:

· Stepp, J.C., I. Wong, J. Whitney, R. Quittmeyer, N. Abrahamson, G. Torro, R. Youngs, K. Coppersmith, J. Savy, T. Sullivan, Yucca Mountain PSHA Project Members (2001). " Probabilistic hazard analyses for ground motions and fault displacement at Yucca Mountain, Nevada," Earthquake Spectra, 17(1), 113-151.

· Youngs, R.R., W.J. Arabasz, R.E. Anderson, A.R. Ramelli, J.P. Ake, D.B. Slemmons, J.P. McCalpin, D.I. Doser, C.J. Fridrich, F.H. Swan III, A.M. Rogers, J.C. Yount, L.W. Anderson, K.D. Smith, R.L. Bruhn, P.L.K. Knuepfer, R.B. Smith, CM. DePolo, D.W. O’Leary, K.J. Coppersmith, S.K. Pezzopane, D.P. Schwartz, J.W. Whitney, S.S. Olig, G.R. Torro (2003). A methodology for probabilistic fault displacement hazard analysis (PFDHA), Earthquake Spectra, 19(1), 191-219.

Swedish High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository at Forsmark (2013)

In 2013 Dr. McCalpin was an International Expert Reviewer of past work on postglacial seismicity and paleoseismology for the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), in relation to the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Forsmark, Sweden. His review covered evidence for postglacial seismicity and surface faulting in Sweden, as well as its implications for canister safety through the present interglacial and next glacial periods. Conclusions and recommendations were transmitted to SSM in a June 2013 report.

Finnish High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository at Olkiluoto (2014)

This review effort of past work on the Olkiluoto site, Finland, will begin in 2014. It is anticipated to be broadly similar to the review done for the Forsmark site, Sweden, but with more emphasis on a deterministic approach to seismic hazards than a probabilistic approach.


Other Paleoseismic and PSHA Experience
Dr. McCalpin authored the first definitive reference on how paleoseismic data are applied to PSHA (McCalpin, J.P., 1996, Application of Paleoseismic Data to Seismic Hazard Assessment and Neotectonic Research, Chapter 9 in McCalpin, J.P. (ed.), Paleoseismology: Academic Press, New York, p.439-493). This chapter was updated in 2009 for the 2nd Edition of Paleoseismology, and can be downloaded for free at:

In addition, Dr. McCalpin has consulted to the national geological surveys of several countries that are still involved in siting nuclear power plants. These include the Council for Geosciences (South Africa) and the Korea Institute of Geology and Minerals (KIGAM). He has taught short courses in paleoseismology and applications to PSHA in both those countries.