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The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES): 20 Years of Nuclear Communication


Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES).

Jointly developed by the IAEA and the NEA in 1990, in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, the purpose of INES is to help nuclear and radiation safety authorities and the nuclear industry worldwide to rate nuclear and radiological events and to communicate their safety significance to the general public, the media and the technical community.

INES has often been compared to other scales used to measure physical properties such as temperature - the Celsius, Kelvin or Fahrenheit scales - or rate events such as earthquakes - the Richter scale. Like these scales, INES also has a sound technical background and can be easily understood.

INES was initially used to classify events at nuclear power plants only. It was subsequently extended to rate events occurring in any nuclear facility and during the transport of radioactive material, thus also covering events related to the overexposure of workers. Since 2008, INES has been extended to any event associated with the transport, storage and use of radioactive material and radiation sources, from those occurring at nuclear facilities to those associated with industrial use.

More generally, INES has also become a crucial nuclear communications tool. Since its inception, it has been adopted in 69 countries, and an increasing number of countries have expressed their interest in using INES and have designated INES national officers. Over the years, national nuclear safety authorities have made growing use of INES, while the public and the media have become more familiar with the scale and its significance. This is where the true success of INES stands, having helped to foster transparency and provide a better understanding of nuclear-related events and activities.

For a full description of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) and its ratings, see: INES Scale

Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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