In Canada and the USA TDG/HAZMAT Class Seven regulated Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) is material found in the environment that contains radioactive elements of natural origin. ( which means you must have TDG training for your staff and when hauled to site, but are you exempt from having a R.S.O. onsite)!
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 giving rise to these enhanced exposures has become known as naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM).
Training staff on NORMs requires a few knowledge based skills long before use any equipment for detection.
You the employer and they the worker should be able to understand:
· What NORM is (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material)
· Types of radiation including material profiles
· Health risks and hazards associated with radioactivity
· Safe working practices when working around NORM
· Key Points on NORM
· NORM stands for Natually Occuring Radioactive Material
· One of the main hazards associated with NORM is the risk of developing cancer
· NORM can be found on many Oil and Gas exploration sites
· All employers are required to show diligence when training employees
That equally requires the worker thinking about: NORM
· Radiation basics
· Health hazards
· Worker protection
· Worker rights and responsibilities
• In the oil and gas industry, the main source of NORM is radium coming to the surface in produced water streams. Long-lived radioactive elements such as uranium, thorium and potassium and any of their decay products, such as radium and radon are examples of NORM. These elements have always been present in the Earth’s crust and atmosphere, and are concentrated in some places, such as uranium orebodies which may be mined. The term NORM exists also to distinguish ‘natural radioactive material’ from anthropogenic sources of radioactive material, such as those produced by nuclear power and used in nuclear medicine, where incidentally the radioactive properties of a material maybe what make it useful. However from the perspective of radiation doses to people, such a distinction is completely arbitrary. Analysis of oil and gas from many different wells has shown that the long-lived uranium and thorium isotopes are not mobilized from the rock formations that contain them. However Ra-226, Ra-224, Ra-228 and Pb-210 are mobilized, and appear mainly in the water co-produced during oil and gas extraction. These isotopes and their radioactive progeny can then precipitate out of solution, along with sulphate and carbonate deposits as scale or sludge in pipes and related equipment. Radon-222 is the immediate decay product of Radium-226 and preferentially follows gas lines. It decays (through several rapid steps) to Pb-210 which can therefore build up as a thin film in gas extraction equipment.
The level of reported radioactivity varies significantly, depending on the radioactivity of the reservoir rock and the salinity of the water co-produced from the well. The higher the salinity the more NORM is likely to be mobilized. Since salinity often increase with the age of a well, old wells tend to exhibit higher NORM levels than younger ones.
Where can you dispose of NORM?
• Class I Landfill
• The handling and disposal of NORM within Canada is regulated by the provincial and territorial governments.
• The transport, import and export of NORM must follow Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulations. The acronym TENORM, or technologically enhanced NORM, is often used to refer to those materials where the amount of radioactivity has actually been increased or concentrated as a result of industrial processes. This paper addresses some of these industrial sources, and for simplicity the term NORM will be used throughout.
Excluding uranium mining and all associated fuel cycle activities, industries known to have NORM issues include:
- The coal industry (mining and combustion)
- The oil and gas industry (production)
- Metal mining and smelting
- Mineral sands (rare earth minerals, titanium and zirconium).
- Fertiliser (phosphate) industry
- Building industry
Another NORM issue relates to radon exposure in homes, particularly those built on granitic ground. Occupational health issues include the exposure of flight crew to higher levels of cosmic radiation, the exposure of tour guides to radon in caves, exposure of miners to radon underground, and exposure of workers in the oil & gas and mineral sands industries to elevated radiation levels in the materials they handle.
Where can NORM be found?
NORM is often found in its natural state in rocks or sand. It can also be associated with oil and gas production residue (such as mineral scale in pipes, sludge and contaminated equipment), coal ash (produced from burning coal for energy production) and on filter media (such as the used filters from municipal drinking water treatment equipment). NORM can also be present in consumer products, including common building products (like brick and cement blocks), granite counter tops, glazed tiles, phosphate fertilizers and tobacco products.
Some industries may regularly come into contact with NORM – for instance, those engaged in the production of oil and gas, phosphate fertilizers, forest products and thermal electricity; mineral extraction and processing; tunneling and underground workings; metal recycling; waste management; and water treatment.
How is NORM detected?
• A NORM screening survey using sensitive radiation detectors is the only way to know if your facilities and equipment are NORM impacted.
• It is recommended that a certified NORM Technician be utilized to perform gamma surveys, which are quick and inexpensive to complete.
In Canada, NORM is regulated by the provincial and territorial governments, each having its own specific regulations on the handling and disposal of the material. The Canadian Guidelines for the Management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials have been developed by the Federal Provincial Territorial Radiation Protection Committee (FPtrPC)to harmonize standards throughout the country and ensure appropriate control over NORM; however, provincial regulations should also be consulted.
NORM is exempt from the application of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA) and its regulations except under the following circumstances:
· when NORM is associated with the development, production or use of nuclear energy as set out in the General Nuclear Safety and Control Regulations
· when NORM is imported into Canada or exported from Canada as set out in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Import and Export Control Regulations
· the transport of NORM when the specific activity is greater than 70 Bq/g (70 kBq/kg) as set out in the Packaging and Transport of Nuclear Substance Regulations and Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulations. Contact the CNSC if you require information on the transport of NORM above the limit specified
How should NORM be handled?
Although concentrations of NORM are usually quite low and the risk is minimal, safe handling of the material is important since higher concentrations of NORM can result when the material is processed. This is often referred to as technologically enhanced NORM, or TENORM.
Because specific safety measures may be required to protect workers who handle NORM-contaminated equipment or NORM waste, NORM should only be handled by a person with appropriate radiation safety training and training in the precautions for hazardous industrial substances.
Best practices for individuals and facilities encountering NORM include:
· providing training and procedures to staff where there is the possibility of encountering NORM
· not eating, drinking or smoking in areas where the presence of NORM is a possibility
· storing NORM and any contaminated materials (including clothing) and waste in a designated area with access limited to authorized personnel
· minimizing operations that may generate dust containing NORM (e.g., cutting, grinding or polishing)
· minimizing the time spent in NORM-contaminated work areas and storage areas
· maximizing the distance from the source when handling or storing NORM
· using appropriate shielding to minimize dose rates from the material if warranted
· disposing of NORM-contaminated materials efficiently, to avoid stockpiling the material
Other (or more involved) measures should only be considered under the direction of personnel trained in radiation safety, specialized in the handling and disposal of NORM. Precautions can include:
· decontaminating equipment that has been exposed to NORM prior to disposal
· using personal protective equipment, including non-porous coveralls, boots and gloves, and protective eyewear and respirators, depending on the situation
· ensuring that pipes are sealed and ground covers are used, to prevent environmental contamination
· preventing dust inhalation, by keeping NORM materials damp with water
· ensuring that all workers are checked for any contamination with NORM before leaving the work area
· evaluating and decontaminating areas of potential NORM contamination by using high pressure washing or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuuming