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Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM)

Naturally occurring radioactive materials exist in the earth’s crust as a result of the decay of heavy elements produced by cosmic processes. In their natural state they are not considered waste. NORM waste is produced when activities including mining and the processing of minerals and contaminated earth concentrate NORM. It is also produced as a result of maintenance and decommissioning of equipment used in such activities (for example oil and gas drilling apparatus). SEPA is responsible for the regulation of the management of radioactive substances including NORM produced from industrial activities.

Industrial activities that may produce NORM include:

  • Production and use of thorium or thorium compounds
  • Production and use of uranium or uranium compounds
  • Extraction and production/ use of rare earth elements
  • Mining and processing of ores other than uranium
  • Production of oil and gas
  • Management of scales and precipitates
  • Use of phosphate ore
  • Titanium dioxide manufacture
  • Extraction and manufacturing of zirconium
  • Refining and converting ore to metal, covering tin, copper, aluminium, zinc, lead, iron and steel
  • Coal mining dewatering
  • Water treatment for drinking water
  • Remediation of NORM from industrial activities
  • China clay extraction

The Low Level Waste policy statement published in 2007 required the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) to develop a UK-wide strategy for the management of solid low level radioactive wastes arising from the nuclear industry. This was published on 26 August 2010.

The policy statement also acknowledged that a UK-wide strategy was needed for solid radioactive waste arising from the non-nuclear industry. A decision was made to split the strategy in two parts:

  • Part 1 - dealing with small users producing relatively low volume arisings of wastes containing mainly anthropogenic radionuclides (developed by the UK Government's Department of Energy and Climate Change);
  • Part 2 - specifically for high volume arisings of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) wastes (being developed by the Scottish Government).

The UK strategy for the management of solid LLW arising from the non-nuclear industry (part 1) was published on 12 March 2012 and the NORM Strategy (part 2) was published July 2014

What are the aims of the NORM Strategy?

The aim of the strategy is to ensure that there are safe, sustainable and resilient NORM waste management arrangements in place in the UK. Also, the strategy will identify and take steps to try to overcome obstacles preventing those managing NORM waste from contributing to sustainable economic growth.