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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Experts say a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest could happen at any time and now the Bonneville Power Administration is making sure when it does our power stays on.

On Thursday, inside Portland State University s Civil Engineering Lab, engineers put a BPA transformer to a shake test. Using a shake table, they simulated a Magnitude 9 subduction zone earthquake.

During the test the transformer swayed, but it never broke. That's because of special mechanisms at the base which act sort of like springs.

Under a certain force, the dampers flex allowing the transformer to flex with the instead of breaking.

We re going to be able to continue to deliver electricity and possibly restore electricity more quickly if we undergo an earthquake here, said Bonneville Power Administration Spokesperson Doug Johnson.

The tests are being conducted by the BPA in conjunction with PSU. According to Johnson, BPA lines carry about 75 percent of all power here in the Pacific Northwest and having that system functional after a devastating earthquake is essential.

Almost everything you can imagine related to recovery efforts during an earthquake are going to require electricity ... critical public health services are going to need it, hospitals are going to need it, said Johnson.

Experts say it's just a matter of time until the big one rattles the Pacific Northwest.

We have had very large amplitude earthquakes in Oregon on the return period of about 300 to 500 years and it s been about 300 years since the last one, said Peter Dusicka, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at PSU.

BPA has been developing this technology over the last 5 years. If the tests go well, BPA hopes to start installing the devices within the next couple of years.

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