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Conference on Management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) in Industry: Transforming Liabilities into Possibilities


Some 600 participants from 94 countries gathered online today for the start of the IAEA’s International Conference on Management of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) in Industry. The two-week event is the IAEA’s first international conference on this topic, its first fully virtual conference, bringing together regulators and representatives from various industries with a common goal: transforming liabilities into possibilities.

The Earth’s crust includes radionuclides of natural origin, which could come to the surface during mining and drilling. Wastes and residues with increased levels of natural radionuclides are generated through a wide range of industrial operations, including the oil, gas and phosphate industries and mining for metals such as rare earth elements and copper. The live-streamed conference will raise awareness about NORM among industry, government, regulators and other relevant stakeholders, with the aim of establishing strategies to manage NORM wastes and residues and find solutions that are both cost-effective and safe for the public and workers.

“NORMs are present in many countries, but there is no consensus on how to establish national inventories or define policies and strategies to manage their wastes and residues,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in his opening remarks to the conference. “The good news is that the relevant industries are addressing the potential radiological issues in their operations.”

The event will help to shine light on what works, what doesn’t work and what could work better in addressing NORM issues, he added. That includes employing “circular economy” approaches, which can greatly reduce waste through recycling and reuse.

“I hope [the event] will improve the understanding of the challenges countries are facing, help to address them and encourage the development of appropriate management and regulatory approaches. This includes environmental and radiation protection regulations,” Mr Grossi said, adding that IAEA safety standards, universally applied in the nuclear sector, have a useful contribution to make.

The conference is fully virtual due to pandemic restrictions. It will discuss different industrial operations outside the nuclear fuel cycle that are associated with increased natural radionuclide activity concentrations in wastes and residues, and which can give rise to increased exposure of members of the public and workers to ionizing radiation. The registration for officially designated participants is now closed but the discussions can be followed via the livestream, available here.

“This conference will bring together a diverse perspective on NORM, and I am looking forward to hearing from many different key stakeholders on their good practices and challenges related to NORM,” said Janelle Branch Lewis, Environmental Engineer at Chevron and President of the Conference. “The information sharing and relationship building that will occur over the next two weeks can help us work together to identify opportunities to develop concrete technical solutions for NORM management.”

Attendees will participate in plenary sessions on National Policies and Strategies, NORM Inventories, Decommissioning of Facilities and Remediation of Contaminated Sites, Characterization in Industrial Facilities and in the Environment, Transportation of NORM Material and Transboundary Issues, Solutions for Residue and Waste Management as well as in a Special Session on Emerging Issues. Conference participants can find more detailed information about the Plenary Sessions here.

Since some of the NORM-related industries require more focused discussions, the IAEA will also hold a series of workshops allowing interested parties to discuss with worldwide experts some of the specific issues, such as Metal Mining Operations, Oil and Gas industry, Fertilizer and Phosphogypsum, Groundwater Treatment and Radiation Protection in NORM Industry. Participants can register for the individual workshops here.

In addition, the workshop “Sampling and Radiological Characterization of NORM Residues and Wastes” on 23 October will include the launch of a task group of the ENVIRONET NORM Project on Sampling and Radiological Characterization of NORM Residues. Exhibitors will showcase their products and services during the final Conference workshop on 29 October.


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