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Physical Vulnerability Assessment of Critical Structure

Protection of the citizen against terrorist acts involves prediction, prevention and mitigation of the effects of such events. In the case of critical structures, effective mitigation may be thought not only in terms of emergency planning and timely intervention, but also in terms of resistance and integrity of the physical structure itself. While specific initiatives such as intelligence, surveillance, monitoring and detection of the threat, will always be taken, should a breach of security occur and all precautionary measures fail, it will be the physical structure itself to bear the first consequences of such an attack. If adequate provisions against abnormal loads, such as blast, explosion and impact, have been taken in the design stage, it is possible that catastrophic consequences are contained and major disasters avoided or effectively mitigated.



The JRC has the scientific capabilities to contribute in this area due its long experience in the field of structural integrity assessment of nuclear installations under accidental explosions and impact. The JRC has also established strong co-operation with CEN (European Committee for Standardization) for the approval, harmonization and further development of the European Norms (EN) for construction. Explosion and impact loads on structures are dealt with in EN 1991-1-7, where some issues regarding design against intentional external blasts would need further elaboration. The activities under the PVACS action fall within the objectives of the Commissionís initiative for the Protection of Critical Infrastructure in the European Union (EPCIP). The assessment of structural integrity of critical infrastructures under severe loadings is considered there as the means for a better prioritisation of protection measures and interventions.

Pressure distribution evolution after bomb explosion at the inner corner of the L-shaped building (Europlexus simulation).

Pressure distribution evolution after bomb explosion at the inner corner of the L-shaped building (Europlexus simulation).

Summary of the Action

The overall approach followed for the vulnerability assessment and the risk mitigation of structures is based on the development of appropriate methodologies through the integrated use of numerical modelling and experimental testing in Structural Mechanics.

In the protection of the citizen against terrorist acts the PVACS action addresses two main aspects:

  1. Physical protection harmonization and enhancement of public buildings as well as of critical transport and energy infrastructures in the Union.
  2. Prevention measures for the structures under certain types of intentional threats or accidents, such as explosions, blasts, etc.

Within this scope the structural vulnerability of critical structures resulting from accidental or malicious actions is attempted to be identified and classified. Structural modelling, reliability theory techniques, and finite element simulations are properly employed in order to provide information and predictive insights in the structures behaviour under severe attack scenarios. Experimental investigation is undertaken and realistic models are introduced for the behaviour of construction materials under high strain-rate loading. Particular attention is given to dynamic compression of confined concrete and dynamic tension of structural steel. Blast wave effects on humans are also analysed in confined urban areas. The minimisation of direct shock wave injuries and those due to flying debris is of concern.

It is considered that such basic information is a prerequisite for a comprehensive vulnerability analysis of larger building complexes and infrastructure systems.


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