The IAEA was created in 1957 with a mandate to promote the safe use of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes. It is an organisation of the United Nations family which in January 2014 comprised 161 member States.
As far as ASN's areas of competence are concerned, the activities of the IAEA consist more particularly in:
- Organising working groups at various levels and drafting texts called "Safety Standards" describing safety principles and practices; the member States can use these texts as a basis for their national regulations.
- Providing the member States with "services" intended to give them opinions on specific aspects concerning safety.
This category includes the missions of OSART (Operational SAfety Review Team), IRRS (Integrated Regulatory Review Service), TranSAS (TRANsport Safety Appraisal Service).
- in cooperation with the NEA of the OECD, harmonisation of the communication tools with increasingly wide use of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) by the member countries.
Development of the INES scale
The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) was adopted by the member states of the IAEA and the NEA in 1990 to ensure consistency in communications on nuclear and radiological incidents and accidents, excluding naturally occurring phenomena, such as radon. The scale enables events to be classified on eight levels from 0 to 7. Each classification level refers to a definition of the event which can range from a deviation from regulations to an anomaly, an incident, a serious incident, an accident, a serious accident or a major accident. ASN actively participates in the development of the INES Scale. It played a key role in its creation and is still involved in the development of the classification scale.
The first version of the INES Scale only dealt with nuclear events. As of 2002, ASN wanted a tool to be developed for communicating on radiation protection incidents. Its proposal resulted in the testing in the IAEA member countries of a new part of the INES Scale relating to radiation protection incidents and taking into account radioactive sources and the transport of radioactive materials. This new part, which integrates the principle of the relationship between the radiological risk and the seriousness of the event, has been applicable in France on an experimental basis since 1st January 2005.
In France, the radiation protection part of the INES Scale related to events involving patients in radiotherapy constitute the ASN-SFRO scale since 2008. At the initiative of France, the IAEA began discussions to extend the use of the INES Scale to events involving patients.