Press Release
Paris, 23 May 2000



Nuclear power plant operating experiences

An international report

The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), jointly with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has just published a new booklet which summarises important lessons learned from the analysis of nuclear incidents world-wide over the period 1996-1999.

The report, which is written for a non-technical audience, shows the tangible safety benefits obtained to date from analyses of more than 300 events and the attendant lessons learned. In particular, the report shows that:

  • New phenomena were identified.

  • Safety information of a generic nature was distributed to all NEA and IAEA countries.

  • Errors were corrected and both the "precursors" and the root causes of potentially safety-related events were identified and related information was circulated to those involved in nuclear safety.

Incident reporting has become an increasingly important aspect of the operation and regulation of all public health and safety-related industries. Diverse industries such as aeronautics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and explosives all depend on operating experience feedback to provide lessons learned about safety.

Serious nuclear accidents or events have never occurred without being preceded by "precursors" that act as "alarm bells". This is one of the fundamental lessons of the Three Mile Island accident that took place in 1979 in the USA. This lesson led the NEA in 1980 to create an Incident Reporting System (IRS) which allows nuclear organisations to exchange information systematically and draw conclusions from events that occur in nuclear power plants. The IRS was subsequently extended to countries outside the NEA and is currently operated jointly by the NEA and the IAEA. It is generally recognised that the exchange of information taking place within the IRS has contributed in an important manner to maintaining a high level of safety and preventing serious accidents.

The safety performance of nuclear power plants, particularly in NEA countries, continues to improve; however, continuous vigilance is needed. The analysis of operating experience continues to be vital. It is important that sufficient resources be allocated by all countries operating nuclear power programmes to make possible timely reporting and sharing of events.

Nuclear Power Plant Operating Experiences from the IAEA/NEA Incident Reporting System: 1996-1999
OECD, Paris, 2000 - ISBN 92-64-17671-3 - 44 pages - English only - Free on request.

Please quote title and reference in any review.

Orders may be directed to the NEA Publications Office, 12 boulevard des Iles, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux, France. Tel.: +33(0)1 4524 1015. Fax: +33 (0)1 4524 1110. E-mail: This report is available electronically at:

Related links

  • Nuclear Safety Division
    Information on the Division's Programme of Work, working methods, and related publications.


Ms. Cynthia Gannon-Picot 
Head, External Relations and Public Affairs
OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)
Tel.: +33 (1) 45 24 10 10
Fax: +33 (1) 45 24 11 10