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Terrestrial NORM consists of radioactive material that comes out of the Earth’s crust and mantle, and where human activity results in increased radiological exposure.

Concentrations of actual radionuclides may or may not have been increased; if they have, the term Technologically-Enhanced (TENORM) may be used.This means that material which is considered radioactive waste in one context may not be considered so in another.Also, that which may constitute low-level waste in the nuclear industry might go entirely unregulated in another industry (see section below on recycling and NORM).Exposure to naturally occurring radiation is responsible for the majority of an average person’s yearly radiation dose (see also Nuclear Radiation and Health Effects paper) and is therefore not usually considered of any special health or safety significance.However certain industries handle significant quantities of NORM, which usually ends up in their waste streams, or in the case of uranium mining, the tailings dam.At higher altitudes, the dose due to both increases, meaning that mountain dwellers and frequent flyers are exposed to higher doses than others.For most people, cosmogenic NORM barely contributes to dose – perhaps a few tens of microsieverts per year.A 70 kg person has 4400 Bq of K-40 – and 3000 Bq of carbon-14.) Cosmogenic NORM is formed as a result of interactions between certain gases in the Earth’s atmosphere and cosmic rays, and is only relevant to this paper due to flying being a common mode of transport.Since most cosmic radiation is deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field or absorbed by the atmosphere, very little reaches the Earth’s surface and cosmogenic radionuclides contribute more to dose at low altitudes than cosmic rays as such.The list of isotopes that contribute to natural radiation can be divided into those materials which come from the ground (terrestrial sources – the vast majority) and those which are produced as a result of the interaction of atmospheric gases with cosmic rays (cosmogenic).NORM levels are typically expressed in one of two ways: Becquerels per kilogram (or gram) indicates level of radioactivity generally or due to a particular isotope, while parts per million (ppm) indicates the concentration of a specific radioisotope in the material.


  1. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, protecting people and the environment.

  2. Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts

  3. Revision Questions - Radioactivity - Isotopes - Alpha - Beta - Gamma - Half-life - Carbon Dating - Cancer - Safety - Fission - Nuclear Power

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