Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) is radioactive material present in the environment; (i.e., soils, air and water) that is not man-made. NORM such as uranium (U), radium (Ra), and thorium (Th) emit low levels of naturally occurring radiation.
NORM, by definition, is naturally occurring and can be found everywhere. Since these materials are found in the natural environment, NORM is exempted from regulation by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In Nevada, there are some regulations and some regulations in development to protect the health and safety of the people.
Common examples of NORM include the following:
- radon gas in homes and other structures;
- potassium-40 in all plants and animals, including humans;
- krypton-80 that is in the atmosphere and air we breathe;
- carbon-14 that is taken in by all organic matter and can be measured thousands of years later to determine its age in the process known as “carbon dating”;
- uranium and thorium and their decay products commonly used in stone work, including granite
- countertops used in residential kitchens; marble used for cemetery markers, statues, and building veneers; and granite and limestone walls used in buildings;
- radium in deep drinking water aquifers that causes additional burdens to water treatment plants; and
- uranium while it is still in the ground, before it is mined and processed into fuel rods for use in nuclear reactors.