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IAEA Supports the Member States in the Proper Management of NORM

All minerals and raw materials contain radionuclides of natural origin. The most important for the purposes of radiation protection are the radionuclides in the U-238 and Th-232 decay series. For most human activities involving minerals and raw materials, the levels of exposure to these radionuclides are not significantly greater than normal background levels and are not of concern for radiation protection. However, certain work activities can give rise to significantly enhanced exposures that may need to be controlled by regulation. Material involved in processes giving rise to these enhanced exposure are considered as Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM).

International Standards and Guidance

The International Basic Safety Standards (GSR Part 3) establish requirements for NORM industries under planned and existing exposure situations. This brings new challenges to regulatory bodies, and operators, as these industries cover a range of different activities, with much diversified characteristics. In addition, many of the industry sectors not been regulated in the past in term of radiation safety.
The IAEA provides practical leadership on radiation protection of workers, the public and the environment from NORM industries around the world.

The IAEA has initiated many activities, including the development of practical safety guides, advice of regulation, technical support reports, and Technical Cooperation projects for assisting Member States in implementing relevant IAEA Safety Requirements.

In this respect, NORM is a crosscutting activity of the IAEA and on-going programme of work is to extend the Agency’s Library for NORM standards and guidance documents and to provide advice and assistance to Members States. A key message is that radiation is only one of a number of hazards in NORM industries and controls must be commensurate with the actual risk. The IAEA recommends that a “graded approach to regulation” be implemented when regulating NORM. However, while radiological aspects of specific NORM industries can be characterised in a general way, the radiation protection management requirements should be site and practice specific. As such, radiation protection addressing public health concerns associated with releases of radionuclides to the environment, the use of excavated ores for preparing building materials, and the safe long-term management of NORM-residues and waste requires tailored and graded approaches and understanding on consequence management. This requires consultation and engagement with a number of stakeholders.

Support through Technical Cooperation Projects

Within the framework of some on-going national projects addressing the management of NORM, workshops in collaboration with the IAEA were organized in Indonesia and Pakistan recently. The objectives of the workshop were; to discuss the scientific aspects of NORM, to review practical examples of NORM management in other jurisdictions, to understand the international approach to NORM (via the framework provided by the IAEA), and to provide a platform for discussion between industry and the regulatory authority on the practical regulation of NORM.

The workshops provided an open environment for discussion between all participants. There were active discussion on matters of regulation, industry expectations and clarification of the science of radiation protection and NORM. The workshops were noted as being valuable in raising awareness about NORM and its appropriate management based on actual measured risk (rather than a perceived risk).

Workshop on the Management of NORM, 28 November – 2 December 2016, Islamabad/Pakistan

Workshop on the Management and Regulatory Control of NORM, 14-18 November 2016, Bandung / Indonesia.

Challenges in Regulating NORM Industriess

There are many challenges in establishing control over NORM, of which those below should be prioritized:

  • Application of the graded approach for regulation of NORM industries including their residues, based on good knowledge and understanding of the diverse industrial sectors.
  • Synergies and system optimization with integrated consideration of radiological and non-radiological hazards.
  • Limited experience in radiation protection for many industry sectors concerned.
  • Siting and long-term management of bulk amount of NORM residues, including consideration of institutional control and financial aspects.
  • Remediation of legacy sites and care of these lands after remediation.
  • Reuse and recycle of NORM residues for avoidance of the need of long term management and disposal.
  • Stakeholder trust is essential to develop a common language for engaging open and transparent dialogues with stakeholders.

Future perspectives

While joint efforts are needed to address the challenges, the IAEA will:

  • Continue its lead role in developing international safety standards and supporting documents with priority on topics to address challenges identified.
  • Provide information to support application of graded approach for regulation of NORM industries including their residues based on good knowledge and understanding of the diverse industrial sectors;
  • Promote application of relevant safety standards to improve consistency amongst thematic aspects, industry sectors, different regulatory bodies, and amongst Member States; and
  • Establish a new network for NORM industries.

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| Last update: Thursday, 02 February, 2017.