California Department of Transportation

California Department of Transportation

Date: June 17, 2011
District: Headquarters - Sacramento
Contact: Tamie McGowen
Phone: (916) 657-5060

Earthquake Technology Developed by Caltrans and Federal Government being Deployed for Nuclear Power Plants in Japan and Around the World

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) today announced that technology developed by Caltrans and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to immediately prioritize bridge inspections after an earthquake is being used to monitor nuclear power plants in Japan and around the world.

ShakeCast is a software application that uses ground sensors to analyze earthquake shaking data in relation to the performance characteristics of a bridge or other structure. This allows responders to prioritize inspections within minutes of an earthquake. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is using ShakeCast to monitor potential damage to nuclear facilities in Japan following the earthquake that occurred there in March. The IAEA is also using ShakeCast to monitor close to 200 nuclear power plants around the world.

"I am proud that this innovative technology is helping aid the response to the tragedy in Japan," said Caltrans Acting Director Malcolm Dougherty. "In the event of an earthquake, ShakeCast helps protect people by allowing us to efficiently and accurately prioritize bridge inspections. Now, it can help emergency responders around the globe to more effectively respond to earthquakes."

Following an earthquake, one of Caltrans' most critical tasks is to assess the condition of bridges and roadways. In the past, inspection teams had difficulty setting priorities because they lacked precise information about where the worst shaking and, most likely, the greatest damage had occurred.

"The California Emergency Management Agency works tirelessly with partners like Caltrans and the United States Geological Survey to prepare for and respond to any natural or man-made disaster," said Cal EMA Acting Secretary Mike Dayton. "It's all about saving lives and property. This technology is a vital addition to those efforts, and I'm pleased it's already helping people in Japan cope with the devastating losses there."

ShakeCast has already proved to be a valuable tool for Caltrans. During the 7.2 Calexico earthquake in Southern California in April 2010, ShakeCast identified the only bridge damaged in this event as the top priority for inspection.

ShakeCast is also being employed by other public agencies throughout California. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, is using it to improve earthquake monitoring and emergency response for over 1000 school buildings.

Caltrans recently executed a new three-year contract with the USGS to continue the development of ShakeCast. The new version will incorporate improved bridge models and will include assessment of soil liquefaction and landslide hazards to roadways after earthquakes.


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