Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is NORM?

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.


Where can I find more information about NORM?

Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material(TENORM)

What is TENORM

When NORM is used for commercial purposes, processed, separated, or in some other manner has its radioactivity concentrated (intentionally or unintentionally), it becomes another category of radioactive material called Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM), which is regulated by the Nevada Radiation Control Program. TENORM is the same group of NORM radionuclides, but it has been technologically enhanced” resulting in a man-made concentration higher than NORM.
Common examples of TENORM include the following:
  • phosphate industry wastes including phosphogypsum and slag;
  • phosphate fertilizers that are commonly used;
  • coal industry wastes including fly ash, bottom ash and slag;
  • oil and gas industry wastes including scale and sludges;
  • water treatment plant wastes including sludges and resin filtration systems;
  • metal mining and processing industry wastes including rare earths, zirconium, hafnium, titanium, and tin;
  • large volume industries including copper and iron; and
  • geothermal energy production wastes.

Where can I find more information about TENORM?