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This paper introduces a new way to characterize the dynamic single-event upset (SEU) cross section of an FPGA design in terms of its persistent and nonpersistent components. An SEU in the persistent cross section results in a permanent interruption of service until reset. An SEU in the nonpersistent cross section causes a temporary interruption of service. These cross sections have been measured for several designs using fault-injection and proton testing. Some FPGA applications may realize increased reliability at lower costs by focusing SEU mitigation on just the persistent cross section.