Concept

International Nuclear Event Scale

Summary
The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) was introduced in 1990 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in order to enable prompt communication of safety significant information in case of nuclear accidents. The scale is intended to be logarithmic, similar to the moment magnitude scale that is used to describe the comparative magnitude of earthquakes. Each increasing level represents an accident approximately ten times as severe as the previous level. Compared to earthquakes, where the event intensity can be quantitatively evaluated, the level of severity of a human-made disaster, such as a nuclear accident, is more subject to interpretation. Because of this subjectivity, the INES level of an incident is assigned well after the fact. The scale is therefore intended to assist in disaster-aid deployment. A number of criteria and indicators are defined to assure coherent reporting of nuclear events by different official authorities. There are seven nonzero levels on the INES scale: three incident-levels and four accident-levels. There is also a level 0. The level on the scale is determined by the highest of three scores: off-site effects, on-site effects, and defense in depth degradation. There are also events of no safety relevance, characterized as "out of scale". Examples: 5 March 1999: San Onofre, United States: Discovery of suspicious item, originally thought to be a bomb, in nuclear power plant. 29 September 1999: H.B. Robinson, United States: A tornado sighting within the protected area of the nuclear power plant. 17 November 2002, Natural Uranium Oxide Fuel Plant at the Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad, India: A chemical explosion at a fuel fabrication facility. Deficiencies in the existing INES have emerged through comparisons between the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which had severe and widespread consequences to humans and the environment, and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, which caused no fatalities and comparatively small (10%) release of radiological material into the environment.
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