Seismic or base isolation is a proven technology for reducing the effects of earthquake shaking on buildings, bridges and infrastructure. The benefit of base isolation has been presented in terms of reduced accelerations and drifts on superstructure components but never quantified in terms of either a percentage reduction in seismic loss (or percentage increase in safety) or the probability of an unacceptable performance. Herein, we quantify the benefits of base isolation in terms of increased safety (or smaller loss) by comparing the safety of a sample conventional and base-isolated nuclear power plant (NPP) located in the Eastern U.S. Scenario- and time-based assessments are performed using a new methodology. Three base isolation systems are considered, namely, (1) Friction Pendulum??? bearings, (2) lead-rubber bearings and (3) low-damping rubber bearings together with linear viscous dampers. Unacceptable performance is defined by the failure of key secondary systems because these systems represent much of the investment in a new build power plant and ensure the safe operation of the plant. For the scenario-based assessments, the probability of unacceptable performance is computed for an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 at a distance 7.5 km from the plant. For the time-based assessments, the annual frequency of unacceptable performance is computed considering all potential earthquakes that may occur. For both assessments, the implementation of base isolation reduces the probability of unacceptable performance by approximately four orders of magnitude for the same NPP superstructure and secondary systems. The increase in NPP construction cost associated with the installation of seismic isolators can be offset by substantially reducing the required seismic strength of secondary components and systems and potentially eliminating the need to seismically qualify many secondary components and systems. ?? 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.