Radiation Protection

Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM)

Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM) is defined as, "Naturally occurring radioactive materialsHelpNaturally occurring radioactive materialsMaterials found in nature that emit ionizing radiation that have not been moved or concentrated by human activity. that have been concentrated or exposed to the accessible environment as a result of human activities such as manufacturing, mineral extraction, or water processing."

"Technologically enhanced" means that the radiological, physical, and chemical properties of the radioactive material have been concentrated or further altered by having been processed, or beneficiated, or disturbed in a way that increases the potential for human and/or environmental exposures.

Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) is defined as, “Materials which may contain any of the primordialHelpprimordialExisting from the beginning of time, naturally occurring. radionuclides or radioactive elements as they occur in nature, such as radiumuraniumthorium, potassium, and their radioactive decay productsHelpdecay productsThe atoms formed and the energy and particles emitted as radioactive material decays to reach a stable form., that are undisturbed as a result of human activities." Background radiation, which is present in terrestrial, cosmic, man-made or cosmogenic sources, is around us at all times. 

Learn about radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in soils, rock, and water throughout the U.S.

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TENORM Industries and Sources

The major industrial sectors which generate TENORM are:

Learn more about TENORM-producing industries and sources in the United States.

EPA is working to coordinate all of its TENORM efforts with other federal agencies, state and tribal governments, industry and public interest organizations. The results of these studies will appear as a series of reports on individual industries and will be provided on this website as they become available.

Each report will contain the following information:

  • TENORM generation by the industry.
  • Content or make-up of the material.
  • Ways that people could be exposed to the industry-produced TENORM.
  • Potential effects of exposure to materials from the industry.
  • How the industry handles or disposes of TENORM wastes.

View the EPA combined report, Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials From Uranium Mining, Volume 1: Mining and Reclamation Background, and Volume 2: Investigation of Potential Health, Geographic, and Environmental Issues of Abandoned Uranium Mines.

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EPA's Role

EPA is working to understand the problem and to develop effective ways to protect people and the environment from harmful exposure to the radiation in these materials. Because TENORM is produced by many industries in varying amounts and occurs in a wide variety of products, it is a particularly challenging problem. Although EPA and others working on the problem have already learned a good deal about TENORM, we still do not completely understand all of the potential radiation exposure risks it presents to humans and the environment.

EPA is investigating TENORM challenges in three ways:

  • Studying the TENORM-producing industries to determine what's in the wastes from the industries and how much risk they pose.
  • Identifying and studying some TENORM sites to assemble an understanding of where the wastes are, what's in them, and the risks they present.
  • Working with other organizations that are also confronting the problem, including states, tribes, other federal agencies, industries and environmental groups, and international organizations.

Many of the materials that are considered TENORM have only trace amounts of radiation and are part of our everyday landscape. However, some TENORM has very high concentrations of radionuclides that can result in elevated exposures to radiation. EPA is investigating TENORM and its management because it has the potential to cause elevated exposure to radiation, people may not be aware of TENORM materials and need information about them and industries that generate these materials may need additional guidance to help manage and dispose of them in ways that protect people and the environment and are economically sound.

In the future, EPA may develop or provide educational materials or guidance for safely and economically controlling exposure to TENORM. 

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