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Site and Seismic Safety

International Seismic Safety Centre (ISSC)

ISSC Seismic Safety CentreThe seismic safety of nuclear installations has received substantial attention in the IAEA within the framework of its statutory functions for establishing IAEA Safety Standards and assisting Member States in their application. Over the past years, attention has been renewed worldwide due to the occurrence of strong earthquakes, some of which affected existing nuclear installations beyond their original design levels. In 2008, the IAEA launched the International Seismic Safety Centre (ISSC) to address in an integrated manner the safety of nuclear installations in respect of all external hazards, including site selection and evaluation aspects for nuclear installations, the . These siting-related aspects were also a ‘core’ field of activities since the 1970s in the Division of Nuclear Installation Safety.

The role of the ISSC is to assist IAEA Member States in external hazard assessment, and in aspects of site selection and site evaluation. With the support and participation of Member States, and with scientific guidance provided by a newly-established Scientific Committee, the ISSC serves as a global focal point for safety against external hazards for nuclear installations world-wide. The ISSC develops IAEA Safety Standards related to and provides for their application in the areas of site selection, site evaluation and seismic design, through safety review services (experts’ missions, workshops, etc.) tailored to the specific needs of a Member State. In addition, the ISSC conducts topical technical research projects to contribute to the resolution of current seismic safety issues that affect design and operational aspects of nuclear installations. Feedback into current Safety Standards from lessons learned from recent strong natural events has become essential, and its dissemination to the international nuclear community is one of the main missions of the ISSC.


The applicable IAEA Safety Standards form the basis of these programmes and services.

Related Service: Site and Seismic Safety Review Services

Site, External Events and Seismic Safety Review Services

ISSC MissionThe ISSC plans, organises and conducts safety review services tailored to specific needs in accordance with the installation life stage in which the service is required (during the siting, design/construction, or operational stage) in order to assist Member States in the safety evaluation of siting-related aspects of nuclear installations and of protection against external and internal hazards, and to provide guidance on the formulation and implementation of possible related safety upgrades in the case of existing operating facilities. A complete roster of IAEA external experts, with expertise in all scientific and technical fields required is available and used for such purposes. More than 240 review missions were conducted in these areas since 1980.

Related Service: Site and Seismic Safety Review Services

Topical technical projects

As a complement to the IAEA regular budget programme activities for establishing IAEA Safety Standards and providing seismic and site safety review services, the ISSC is developing a number of topical projects to investigate available methods and practices for resolving current seismic safety issues within the scope of extra-budgetary projects in which 45 institutions from 21 countries participate. The current projects are as follows:

  • Research on seismic damage indicators (CAV and I-JMA) based on newly observed seismic data
  • Research on simulation of the mechanical behaviour of structures and equipment of nuclear power plants
  • Development of guidance on pre-earthquake planning and post-earthquake actions response
  • Development of the ISSC Database and External Events Notification System
  • Development of an IAEA TECDOC on seismic instrumentation criteria for plant shutdown, restart and exceedance.

External hazards

The ISSC is responsible for programmatic activities on site selection and site evaluation for nuclear installations, including engineering aspects of protection against sabotage, site related aspects of the radiological impact on the environment, and structural engineering and design related aspects, as well as external hazards, including all external events that may affect installation safety of natural and human induced origin. This framework encompasses criteria and guidance on siting aspects. A complete and comprehensive set of related IAEA Safety Standard requirements and guides is available and are being updated in view of recent developments and experience in this area.
Since 2007, the ISSC has been implementing a three-year programme of tsunami hazard assessment; currently 18 institutions from 7 Member States participate.

The IAEA Safety Standard Guides under revision are on: seismic hazards evaluation, meteorological and hydrological hazards evaluation, and volcanic hazards evaluation.

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| Last update: Thursday, 19 November, 2015.