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Seventh International Symposium on Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material – NORM VII

Beijing, China, 22-26 April 2013

Beijing, China

Objective

The symposium was the Seventh in a series starting in the Netherlands in 1997, followed by Germany in 1998, Belgium in 2001, Poland in 2004, Spain in 2007 and Morocco in 2010. As part of Agency’s initiative to bring the symposium towards a more internationally-orientated platform, begun from Europe, entering to Africa and now in Asia - the Beijing venue was more appropriate in the context of the presence of large industry sectors such as rare earths and coal mining involving NORM. The Agency has participated in most of these symposia and its involvement was intensified at NORM IV, V and VI, with the proceedings having been published in the IAEA Proceedings series. From NORM V onwards, and this symposium (NORM VII), this involvement was strengthened further, with the Agency formally entering into an official cooperation agreement with the symposium organizers. Following were the organizers of NORM VII.

Hosted by : China Atomic Energy Authority and National Nuclear Safety Administration

Organized by : China Institute of Atomic Energy and Nuclear and Radiation Safety Centre, Ministry of Environmental Protection, China

Co-organized by : China Society of Radiation Protection; Commission of Nuclear Safety and Environmental Radiation Safety, Chinese Society of Environmental Sciences; National Institute for Radiological Protection; Tsinghua University; China University of Geosciences; and University of South China.

In Co-operation with International Atomic Energy Agency.

Outcomes

The symposium attracted nearly 130 participants from 32 countries as well as from the Agency and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). Representatives from several government departments, regulatory bodies, industries, research establishments, universities, and several national organizations were among the participants. There were 3 plenary lectures, 17 Invited oral presentations, 37 oral presentations, 29 poster presentations, 4 rapporteur presentations and a panel discussion. The opening plenary lecture was presented by the IAEA Representative Mr.P.P.Haridasan. The management of residues is one of the important issues in NORM industries and IAEA initiatives and actions on this topic were presented by Mr.Fan Zhiwen as an Invited Oral presentation. Special poster sessions were held, allowing each poster presenter the opportunity to make a mini-presentation in the plenary gatherings. All of the participants funded under the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme made either oral or poster presentations, contributing significantly to the international dimension of the symposium. Each of the four days of presentations was concluded with a rapporteur presentation summarizing the day’s proceedings (or, on the fourth day, the whole symposium) and drawing conclusions. As part of the symposium, a very informative technical visit to the China Institute of Atomic Energy was undertaken.

The Symposium was opened jointly by the host (represented by Mr. Hua Liu, Vice-Administrator, NNSA,; Mr.Yongmin Zhao, Deputy Director General, Department III of the Nuclear and Radiation Safety, NNSA; Mr.Zongming Li, Director General, Nuclear Radiation Safety Centre; Junxin Zhang, Director, International Cooperation, CAEA; and Mr.Senlin Liu, Vice-President, CIAE) and the IAEA (represented by Mr.P.P.Haridasan). There were nine technical sessions covering different topics. The technical lead role of the Agency was visible throughout the deliberations of the symposium, including the keynote address, and other papers authored by Agency staff. With the support of the Technical Cooperation Department by funding participants from Asia, Africa and Latin America Region, the Symposium achieved a high international profile and more outreach of the Agency standards on NORM to the developing Member States. The keynote address was entitled Managing Exposure to Natural Sources - International Standards and New Challenges and the other invited paper from the Agency was titled Towards a Sustainable Solution to NORM Residue Management and Safety. The two other plenary lectures covered NORM exposures in China and the uranium industry of the northern territory Australia. The technical sessions dealt with several topics such as NORM in Industries, Regulatory aspects of NORM-meeting with the new BSS requirements, Environmental aspects of NORM, Site specific measurements, dose assessment, application of ALARA principle, the development of NORM measurement methods and strategies, the management of NORM residues/wastes, transport issues and other aspects. The ICRP representative provided a summary of the guidance on existing exposure situations and in particular the work of the Task group No.84 on radon.


Conclusions

Several papers from China highlighted the importance of NORM management in Chinese industries especially in Coal mining and utilization and rare earths extraction. Symposium noted that exposure to NORM is an emerging issue in China and national authorities look forward for an increased international cooperation on both the regulatory and operational aspects to meet the current challenges. NORM VII Symposium noted that still there exist several problems and confusions on reference levels not limits (eg 1 Bq/g), Planned or Existing Exposure Situations?; What value for dose reference levels?; Over-reliance on conservative models; and Cross-border transportation problems are some of the important challenges. The need for a coherent and understandable system is highlighted. Future actions points for a better clarity on implementation of ICRP guidance and recommendations, practical details on graded approach, need for industry-based and industry-led approach in controlling exposures to NORM, need to validate models and need for practical examples of ALARA.

It is generally concluded the venue of the symposium was in the right place with millions of workers in China in industries involving NORM and millions people still living in caves. China being one of the major supplier and user of NORM materials, it is viewed that “NORM is an urgent concern” but still need more industry participation. Increased acceptance of the generic reference level of 1 Bq/g of the uranium or thorium series nuclide was noted however, concerns around the appropriateness of this criteria for all situations, eg building materials and waste disposal.

The main goal of radiation protection for all exposure situations is optimisation to ALARA but very few examples of ALARA in practice are noticed. Large scope for optimisation in the case of radon and thoron and large uncertainties in dose conversion factors for these nuclides are observed. Protection strategies for Rn from the building are still not very clear. Sometimes use of unrealistic models and over-conservatism is creating significant problems in dealing with radon and NORM issues. Measurements continue to be important to realistically assess worker and public exposures. The need for developments of appropriate instrumentation is also an issue in NORM industries. NORM Residues are increasingly recognised as a resource and more examples of re-use and recycling were presented in the symposium. However, the need to proceed with care as the solutions of today should not be problems in future as it may produce the largest collective dose in the NORM life-cycle – especially building materials.

Stakeholder involvement and public communication are extremely important when dealing with NORM industries and issues. More final disposal options and more examples of site remediation experience are presented in the symposium.

Poor risk perception/Education and training among workers is noticed. There were also cases of denial of shipments because of radiation alarms at ports, but transport regulations seem to be generally acceptable. The potential increase in radon dose conversion factor expected bases on the dosimetric approach caused some concern among industries on exposures to radon in workplaces especially in underground mines. All the above points were underlined by the experts in the panel discussion.

The NORM VII Symposium without doubt, was a well organised and very successful conference. The China Institute of Atomic Energy and Nuclear and Radiation Safety Centre are to be congratulated for their efforts in organizing the symposium. The official involvement of the Agency in the organization of the symposium has significantly enhanced the Agency’s profile in the important field of radiation protection in the NORM industry and the Agency can build on this by formally cooperating in the organization of NORM VIII in 2016. Although there is considerable progress towards achieving a harmonized radiation protection and regulation of exposure to NORM, there is still a lack of a common approach among Member States, making it particularly important for the Agency to use every opportunity to promote and facilitate the implementation of the Standards.

The acquisition of radiological knowledge on the various NORM industry sectors is continuing and there is a further consolidation of views on which NORM industry sectors are of regulatory concern, and that there is continuing recognition of the efforts of the Agency in developing and promoting international standards as they apply to NORM. Facility-specific investigations continue to show that doses received by workers and members of the public are at the lower end of the spectrum of earlier predictions, with the vast majority of doses being reported as falling below 1 mSv per year, the exceptions being mainly for processes involving material with unusually high activity concentrations. Dissemination of this information will undoubtedly help regulatory bodies to narrow the focus of their attention to those industrial processes where it is really needed, and thus to make more efficient use of regulatory resources.

The symposium concluded with an announcement that NORM VIII will be held in Brazil in March 2016.

| Last update: Wednesday, 04 February, 2015.