Challenges in communicating an INES rating during an evolving accident situation

A K Stott Co-Chair INES Advisory Committee

International Experts’ Meeting on Enhancing Transparency and Communication Effectiveness in the event of a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency IAEA
International 18 Vienna, Austria: Atomic-Energy Agency 2012 20 June

INES History

• Developed in 1990 by international experts, convened by the IAEA and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency • With the aim of communicating the safety significance of events at nuclear installations • Has since been expanded to cover all nuclear and IAEA radiological events

Levels 4 to 7:


Levels 1 to 3: “Incidents”



Role of INES

INES provides an effective means of communicating the safety significance of an event, converting complex technical information into a single level on the scale, the significance of which can be easily understood by the public Good experience over the years with the rating and communication of events at the lower levels INES was not and is not intended:
• •

to replace the need for clear information about an event to be a “live commentary” on each stage of an evolving event


INES Ratings during the Fukushima-Daiichi accident
1st provisional rating (March 12, around 0:30)
• Level 3 for Unit 1 and 2 due to loss of heat removal

2nd provisional rating (March 12, evening)
• Level 4 for Unit 1 due to high radiation level at the site boundary

3rd provisional rating (March 18)
• Level 5 for Units 1, 2 and 3 since core melt was believed to have
occurred with high credibility.

• Level 3 for Unit 4 due to loss of heat removal

4th provisional rating (April 12)
• Level 7 for Fukushima-Daiich site since the estimated equivalent
release was believed to be more than several tens of thousands of terabecquerels of 131I IAEA

Challenges in determining and communicating the INES rating
• Large uncertainties in the progression of accident and
in the release and transport behavior of radioactive material:  Plant parameters and radiation monitoring were lost due to loss of DC power  High radiation prevented operators to access to the key devices in the plants • Multiple facilities were affected

• Initial rating low, but progressively got higher • Delay in the final rating • Comparison with Chernobyl

Some lessons from a communication perspective
• Frequent changes of provisional INES rating in an
“evolving event” may cause public confusion

• Explanation of what is INES, how and for what
purpose it is used should be communicated to the public at the preparedness stage, to avoid unjustified expectations at the response stage

• During the response to severe emergency at a Nuclear
Power Plant or at a Spent Fuel Pool, the public needs to be provided with plain language information about the status of the facility, and the protective actions for the population. The INES rating can only be used to IAEA support this communication

What is IAEA doing with INES after Fukushima
• Confirming the appropriateness of the criteria for rating

• Developing guidelines that will enhance the use of
INES as part of communications during an emergency

• Giving guidance on how to rate events at multiple sites
or a site with multiple facilities

• Explaining how two Level 7 events can have very
different consequences

Example of “Better use of INES as part of communications during an Emergency”
Draft principles – still to be discussed and agreed by the INES National Officers

• Principle 1:

The aim is to provide a rating that relates to the safety significance that would be ascribed to the event once terminated, - it does not provide a “live commentary” on each stage of an evolving accident In an uncertain and changing situation it is probably better to delay the publication of an INES rating until the situation is clearer - focus on the key issues for the public and be open that there is not enough information to provide a rating

• Principle 2:


Example of “Better use of INES as part of communications during an Emergency”
Draft principles – still to be discussed and agreed by the INES National Officers

• Principle 3:

Provide statements that indicate the rating or the likely range of an INES rating as soon as sufficient information becomes available Ratings need to be updated if new information becomes available – explain the revised rating – don’t change the provisional rating too often Don’t issue a final rating until emergency teams have been stood down and have returned to non-emergency status

• Principle 4:

• Principle 5:


International Atomic Energy Agency