Le côté obscur de l’énergie nucléaire

SINGAPOUR – La crise nucléaire au Japon est un cauchemar, mais ce n’est pas une anomalie. Elle n’est en fait que le dernier d’une longue série d’accidents nucléaires comprenant des fusions du cour d’un réacteur, des explosions, des incendies et des pertes en eau de refroidissement – des accidents qui se sont produits à la fois pendant le fonctionnement normal des centrales et lors de conditions exceptionnelles liées à des sécheresses et des tremblements de terre.

La sécurité nucléaire implique qu’il n’y ait aucune ambiguïté concernant les termes utilisés. La Commission de réglementation nucléaire des Etats-Unis sépare en général les «amp#160;événementsamp#160;» nucléaires imprévus en deux catégories, les «amp#160;incidentsamp#160;» et les «amp#160;accidentsamp#160;». Les incidents sont des anomalies et des défaillances techniques se produisant lors du fonctionnement de routine d’une centrale et ne présentant ni rejets radioactifs hors site, ni dommages importants des installations. Les accidents concernent soit des rejets radioactifs importants hors site soit des dégâts majeurs des installations nucléaires.

L'échelle internationale des événements nucléaires (INES, de l'anglais International Nuclear Event Scale) compte elle huit niveaux numérotés de 0 à 7 pour établir la gravité des événements radiologiques et nucléairesamp#160;: les niveaux de 1 à 3 sont des incidents, et les niveaux de 4 à 7 sont des accidents. Le niveau 7, un «amp#160;accident majeuramp#160;» comprend un «amp#160;rejet majeur d’éléments radioactifs ayant des effets étendus sur la santé et l'environnement et susceptible d'exiger l'application intégrale des contre-mesures prévuesamp#160;».

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