Could a large earthquake, like the one that occurred near Charleston, S.C., in 1886, strike elsewhere along the eastern seaboard, or is there a geologic structure, unique to the Charleston area, that was responsible? Because of the lack of hard evidence linking eastern earthquakes to specific geologic structures or faults, the answer to that question has been the subject of much scientific debate. Because of this uncertainty, some scientists have maintained that strong earthquakes conceivably could occur anywhere along the east coast. The Charleston earthquake measured more than 7 on the Richter scale and caused at least 60 deaths and widespread damage. Among other considerations, the design of nuclear power plants is affected by how well scientists can predict the seismic potential of a given area.