Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM)

Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM)

Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) is undisturbed radioactive material that occurs in its natural form. NORM includes radioactive elements such as radium, uranium, thorium, potassium and their radioactive decay products (per the Environmental Protection Agency). NORM can become concentrated through oil and gas operations, mining, water treatment, and many other human activities.

Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM)

NORM that has been concentrated by human activity is called Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM). In Kansas, a common TENORM issue is from oil and gas field pipe that is recycled as scrap metal. The pipes are lined with a scale that contains radium-226. Some pipes contain enough radium to alarm radiation detectors at scrap yards and steel mills.

TENORM issues and responses are evaluated on an individual basis. One option for disposing of this material is by using waste brokers. Current regulations for the control of all radioactive material in Kansas include TENORM. Rules for the separate and specific control of TENORM are under development in Kansas.

Per K.S.A. 48-1603, “radioactive material” means any material, solid, liquid or gas, which emits ionizing radiation spontaneously. It includes accelerator produced, by-product, naturally occurring, source and special nuclear materials.


Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) and Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) contain radioactive material, some in very small quantities.

  • Brazil nuts contain a small amount of radium
  • Salt substitute contains potassium-40
  • Uranium ore is mined from the ground
  • Radium containing scale builds up in pipes

Radiation meters are used to detect radiation. Some of these items contain only trace amounts of radioactive material that can only be detected by sending a sample to a laboratory.

For more examples of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, visit the Oak Ridge Associated Universities website.

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