NORM

Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Material

By definition, naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) is not subject to regulatory control under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, or the Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act. Because of these regulatory exclusions, NORM is subject primarily only to individual state radiation control regulations. In North Dakota, NORM is under the regulatory control of the Radiation Control Program of the North Dakota Department of Health - Division of Air Quality.

Questions may be addressed to the North Dakota Department of Health at 701.328.5188.


Naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) generally contain radionuclides found in nature, such as radium, thorium, uranium, etc. Once this NORM becomes concentrated through human activity, such as mineral extraction or oil production, it can become a radioactive contamination hazard or a radioactive waste.

There are two types of NORM material: Discrete and Diffuse.

The first, discrete NORM, has a relatively high radioactivity concentration in a very small volume, such as a radium source used in medical procedures or level gauges. Because of its relatively high concentration of radioactivity, this type of NORM poses a direct radiation exposure hazard.

The second type, diffuse NORM, has a much lower concentration of radioactivity, but is spread out over a large volume of material, such as contaminated soil. Diffuse NORM poses a different type of problem because of its high volume and low concentration of radioactive material. The following are six sources of diffuse NORM:

  1. Metal Mining & Processing Waste
  2. Coal Ash
  3. Phosphate Waste
  4. Uranium Mining Overburden
  5. Oil and Gas Production Wastes
  6. Water Treatment Residues

Diffuse NORM may pose a health hazard because of its many uses. For example, though most metal-mining waste is stored near where it is generated, small amounts have been used as construction backfill and road building materials. It is also used in concrete and wallboard.

Coal ash is primarily used as an additive in concrete and as backfill.

Phosphate waste (slag) from the processing of elemental phosphorous has been used in construction and in paving.

Uranium mining waste is the soil and rock that is removed during surface or underground uranium mining. This waste is sometimes used to backfill mined-out areas and to construct roads around the mining site.

Oil and gas production may produce radioactive pipe scale (a residue left in pipes from producing oil wells) and sludge that leave sites and equipment contaminated. In the past, some contaminated piping and other scrap metal have been used inadvertently by schools and other organizations for playground equipment, welding material, fencing, etc. because this contaminated metal was recycled before it was found to be contaminated.

Radiation-contaminated water treatment residue accumulates when radioactive material is filtered out of drinking water during the purifying process. This waste may be disposed of in landfills or lagoons. It may also be used in agriculture as a soil conditioner.

There is increasing evidence that improper use or disposal of such naturally-occurring radioactive materials can result in significant contamination of the environment and elevated radiation exposure. This can adversely affect the health of those occupationally exposed, as well as the general public.

By definition, naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) is not subject to regulatory control under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, or the Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act. Because of these regulatory exclusions, NORM is subject primarily only to individual state radiation control regulations. In North Dakota, NORM is under the regulatory control of the Radiation Control Program of the North Dakota Department of Health - Division of Air Quality.

Wastes containing NORM are generally not regulated by federal agencies. One exception is the transportation of NORM contaminated wastes. These shipments are subject to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. In addition, NORM handling and management activities may be subject to regulations promulgated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) as well as those maintained by the North Dakota Health Department.

There are currently no federal regulations covering disposal of NORM. The State of North Dakota, as an Agreement State, does regulate all aspects of NORM (and other non-byproduct radioactive material). Currently there are no regulations specific to the control of NORM. NORM is covered by the same regulations that apply to other radioactive material in the state.

Material or equipment found to contain less than 5 picocuries of total radium per gram of material through accredited lab analysis is not considered NORM, by definition, and may be disposed of, or released for unrestricted use.

Material or equipment found to be contaminated to levels above 5 picocuries per gram are considered NORM and must be handled, stored, transported and disposed of in accordance with the North Dakota Radiological Health Rules.

Article 10—Radiological Health Rules

For ease in finding the incorporated rules, we have included links to 33-10 that have NRC rules incorporated. See links under the Full Incorporated Rules column.

Chapter 

Title 

Full Incorporated Rules
(Printable) 

33-10-01 General Provisions
33-10-02 Registration of Radiation Machine Facilities and Services
33-10-03.1 Rules of General Application to Domestic Licensing of Byproduct Material 33-10-03.1
33-10-04.2 Standards for Protection Against Radiation 33-10-04.2
33-10-05.1 Radiation Safety Requirements for Industrial Radiographic Operations 33-10-05.1
33-10-06 X-Rays in the Healing Arts
33-10-07.2 Medical Use of Byproduct Material 33-10-07.2
33-10-08 Radiation Safety Requirements for Analytical X-ray Equipment
33-10-09 Radiation Safety Requirements for Particle Accelerators
33-10-10.1 Notices, Instructions, and Reports to Workers - Inspections 33-10-10.1
33-10-11 Fees for Issuance of License and Registration Certificates and Inspections
33-10-12.1 Licenses and Radiation Safety Requirements for Well Logging 33-10-12.1
33-10-13.1 Packaging and Transportation of Radioactive Material 33-10-13.1
33-10-14.1 Licenses and Radiation Safety Requirements for Irradiators 33-10-14.1
33-10-15 Therapeutic Radiation Machines
33-10-16 Domestic Licensing of Source Material 33-10-16
33-10-17 Domestic Licensing of Special Nuclear Material 33-10-17
33-10-18 General Domestic Licenses for Byproduct Material 33-10-18
33-10-19 Reciprocal Recognition of Licenses 33-10-19
33-10-20 Specific Domestic Licenses to Manufacture or Transfer Certain Item Containing Byproduct Material 33-10-20
33-10-21 Specific Domestic Licenses of Broad Scope for Byproduct Material 33-10-21
33-10-22 Physical Protection of Category 1 and Category 2 Quantities of Radioactive Material 33-10-22
33-10-23 Regulation and Licensing of Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material

Repealed Rules

Chapter 

Title 

Related Links 

33-10-03 Licensing of Radioactive Material [Repealed]
33-10-04 Standards for Protection Against Radiation [Repealed]
33-10-04.1 Standards for Protection Against Radiation [Repealed]
33-10-05 Radiation Safety Requirements for Industrial Radiographic Operations [Repealed]
33-10-07 Use of Radionuclides in the Healing Arts [Repealed]
33-10-07.1 Medical Use of Radioactive Material [Repealed]
33-10-10 Notices, Instructions, and Reports to Workers - Inspections [Repealed]
33-10-12 Radiation Safety Requirements for Wireline Service Operations and Subsurface Tracer Studies [Repealed]
33-10-13 Transportation of Radioactive Material [Repealed]
33-10-14 Licenses and Radiation Safety Requirements for Irradiators [Repealed]

The safe handling, storage, transport and disposal of NORM is a very important issue. NORM or other radioactive waste disposal standards have changed substantially with improved technology and evolving environmental protection considerations. Regulatory programs and standards continue to change, so if you would like more information on the handling, storage, transport or disposal of NORM, contact:

Or visit:

  • The Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors Suggested State Regulations for Control of Radiation:  PART NPDF -- "REGULATION AND LICENSING OF TECHNOLOGICALLY ENHANCED NATURALLY OCCURRING RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS (TENORM)"

Last Updated: 12/30/2017