Regulations and Regulatory Issues


Protection Philosophies

International Guidance

U.S. Guidance

Federal Regulation of TENORM

States Regulation of TENORM

CRCPD Suggested State Regulations for Control of Radiation

HPS/ANSI Standard for NORM - Guide for Control and Release of NORM

Guidance Documents for TENORM

Recycling and Disposal of TENORM

U.S. Guidance


The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) periodically updates its recommendations, including those germane to this discussion.
The most recent germane report is NCRP Report 160, Ionizing Radiation Exposure of the Population of the United States, that shows that the annual dose to the average American has gone up substantially, mostly due to diagnostic and theuraputic medicine. Radon contributes an estimated 68% of background dose. It is based on dosimetry from ICRP 60 et seq.
NCRP published its Report 91 in 1987 (NCRP 1987) and was based on risk estimates given in ICRP 26 (ICRP 1977). NCRP Report 116 (NCRP 1993) was published to update the previous estimates and adopts the recommendations of ICRP 60 in general terms. 

For human-made sources, annual dose limits for members of the public are 1 mSv (100 mrem) for continuous exposures and 5 mSv (500 mrem) for infrequent exposures. It is an ALARA standard, and has a constraint of 25% of the limit from one single source. 

NCRP discusses instances when “natural radiation sources enhanced locally by man’s operations for selected purposes, can give rise (sometimes quite inadvertently) to annual exposures above the level of 1 mSv. 

It then becomes necessary to consider at what exposure level remedial action, which may only be possible at substantial societal cost, should be undertaken. Remedial action levels involve a balance of risk with many other socio-economic factors.” Once a remedial action (intervention) level is set, exposures above that level should trigger action. Once remedial measures are invoked, the action should be ALARA driven, and obtain cleanup levels well below the action level, if appropriate. NCRP then goes on to recommend that “…remedial action be undertaken when continuous exposures from natural sources, excluding radon, are expected to exceed five times the average or 5 mSv (500 mrem) annually.” 

For purposes of TENORM, the recommendations are similar. 

NCRP 118   Radiation Protection in the Mineral Extraction Industry provides guidance for radiation protection practices at facilities that process various ores (NCRP 1993a).

NCRP 118 is considered in the HPS/NORM working group recommendations (HPS 1998)

A committee has been formed to examine the linear dose response model (NCRP 1998), and is discussed in the section on risk.

Click here for a table of ICRP 60 and NCRP 116 risk and dose limits and a discussion on dose.

Other NCRP reports that are applicable to TENORM issues are:


The National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), conducts research on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR).  For years, Congress has used the NAS to evaluate regulatory proposals.  Currently, the NAS is being used to evaluate  regulations proposed by the NRC.


BEIR V addressed health effects and risks due to low levels of radiation (NRC 1990). The report concludes that the carcinogenic effectiveness of low LET radiation is generally reduced at low doses and low dose rates. In comparing protracted versus acute exposures, protracted exposures are expected to reduce lifetime risks by a factor of about two for the same dose of low LET radiation. Due to the amount of new data available since the publication of BEIR V, a new committee is in process of evaluating the effects of low LET radiation. This BEIR VII report is due about five years after commencement, and will examine the dose-response relationship at low doses and low dose rates.


BEIR VI, based on an earlier report, focused on risk factors associated with the inhalation of radon gas and radon gas decay products (NRC 1998). The report updated a previous report (NRC 1988) and concluded that (abbreviated):

Federal Regulation of TENORM

In the U.S., as elsewhere, NORM and TENORM has often been defined by what it is not, rather than what it is.  It has been defined by exclusion: it is not low level waste, nor is it source, special nuclear, or byproduct material under Atomic Energy Act. 

The definition of source material found in the Atomic Energy Act (AEC 1972) is based on the early safeguards concerns for material that could be used to ultimately make reactor fuel or nuclear weapons. When the definition was written, Congress considered that source materials needed to be placed under regulatory control on the basis of promoting common defense and national security. The health and safety impacts from NORM other than source material were considered to be manageable, to be relatively insignificant, and to have no basis for regulation from the standpoint on the common defense and national security (USNRC 1996).

 The hazards posed by uranium mill tailings (a byproduct material) were incompletely recognized in the uranium industry's early years, and, while the AEA of 1954 instituted licensing of mill operators, tailings remained free of controls. 

When the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Control Act (UMTRCA) was passed in 1978, a new definition of byproduct material was created at section 11 e(2).  

11 e(2)Byproduct material under the Act limited control to tailings "produced by the extraction or concentration of uranium or thorium from any ore processed primarily for its source material content" (EPA 1994). Therefore, other tailings (vanadium, radium, etc.) as well as other NORM bearing wastes are not regulated by the AEA, and are considered TENORM.   

EPA Regulations

EPA and other Federal and State agencies are responsible for regulating public exposures to NORM that are not licensed by NRC. State authority is derived from the Constitution, by which the States have primary responsibility for the health and safety of the public. EPA, State, and NRC programs do not treat the radiological risks from NORM consistently. NRC licensees generally are required to meet more restrictive conditions than are possessors and users of other NORM. There are no significant differences in the radiological risks of these materials, although radon and some discrete radium sources have a higher radiological hazard than uranium and thorium (NRC 1996).

Currently there are no federal regulations specifically controlling TENORM.  However, numerous federal laws do regulate parts of the TENORM industry.  An example is the NESHAPS for radon emanation from a mill tailings pile.

EPA has authority to protect the public health and environment from adverse affects of exposure to ionizing radiation. The authority to regulate TENORM is derived from several statutes, including the AEA; the Clean Air Act (CAA); UMTRCA (as mentioned before); The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA); and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) explicitly exclude source, byproduct, and special nuclear material (by definition), but they do not explicitly exclude NORM/TENORM. TSCA includes a subchapter on Indoor Radon Abatement, which was written with residential NORM (i.e., Rn) in mind (EPA 1993).

Federal Radiation Protection Guidance

"The purpose of the RPG is to provide a common framework to help ensure that the regulation of exposure to ionizing radiation is carried out by Federal agencies in a consistent and adequately protective manner." (EPA 1994). The current basis for radiation protection in the U.S. dates back to the RPG of 1960 and 1961. New Federal guidance issued in 1987 replaced those portions of the 1960 and 1961 guidance that applied to protection of workers.

The RPG is 0.5 rem/year each to the whole body and bone marrow, and 5 rem in 30 years to the gonads. Additional RPGs at comparable levels are specified for exposure to the thyroid and bone (1.5 rem/year). In addition, doses should be "as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) and advised that control should be applied to keep doses below the RPG, but that surveillance alone was sufficient for levels up to 10% of the RPG (Richardson 1995). It should be noted here that the RPG for the gonads was based on limiting the incremental rate of mutation in the entire genetic pool of the U.S. population. The incremental level of mutation deemed unacceptable was on the order of a few percent (EPA 1994).

Richardson classified problems with the old RPGs into three categories:

These same arguments can be applied to the TENORM issue and are considered in the proposed standards.

Proposed RPG

In 1994, EPA proposed new RPGs replacing the 1960s vintage guidance. The guidance would reduce the dose limit to members of the public from 5 mSv (500 mrem) to 1 mSv (100 mrem), from all combined sources of radioactivity. It allows an annual dose of 5 mSv (500 mrem) for special and temporary circumstances involving infrequent radiation exposures. It requires that the RPG be expressed in terms of a single weighted sum of doses to organs, and the separate RPGs for individual organs be deleted; the RPG limiting the average genetic dose to members of the U.S. population to 5 rems in 30 years and the annual whole body dose to 500 mrem dose equivalent be replaced by a single RPG of 1 mSv (1 mrem) effective dose equivalent received by or committed in a single year to any individual from all sources combined; doses from individual sources be limited to a fraction of the RPG; and increased emphasis be given to ALARA, within the RPG (EPA 1994).

 1994 Proposed RPG withdrawn, ISCORS takes over the draft 

The 1994 proposal has been withdrawn.  A new effort is now being undertaken to revise the RPG by the Interagency Steering Committee on Radiation Standards (ISCORS) Federal Guidance Subcommittee.  The main Federal Agencies will work on the new RPG, but unless the issue over the EPA and USNRC methodologies are resolved (15 mrem w/ 4 mrem from groundwater vs. 25 mrem from all sources combined), it may be a while before the RPG is reproposed.  The group is "...taking a fresh look at the issues and is directly addressing concerns that surface through that process.  The goal of our effort is to provide the public and regulated community with a consensus document from the federal government on principles for protecting the public from unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation" (Rosenberg 2001).

Uranium Mill Tailings

In 1965, it was discovered by the Public Health Service (PHS) and the Colorado Department of Health that uranium mill tailings were being hauled from the mill site and used for construction purposes in around habitable structures (CDH 1989). Regulations were promulgated to effect cleanup for Grand Junction based on PHS recommendations, known as the Grand Junction Remedial Action Criteria, found at 10 CFR 712 (AEC 1972). These regulations were designed to mitigate radon in structures from uranium mill tailings. In 1978, the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) was passed to address the mill sites themselves, as well as disposal of the tailings. The regulations supporting UMTRCA are found at 40 CFR 192 (EPA 1978).

These regulations are the basis for the current regulations for NORM the States have adopted, along with surface contamination release limits found in REG Guide 1.86 (NRC 1974). Final groundwater standards were promulgated in 1995 and are consistent with USNRC values found in 10 CFR 40.

Table 16. 40 CFR 192 Standards

Soil, 226Ra averaged over 100 m2, shall not exceed background by more than: 5 pCi/g 226Ra averaged over the first 15 cm of soil below the surface

15 pCi/g 226Ra averaged over 15 cm thick layers of soil more than 15 cm below the surface

Habitable buildings: Annual average radon decay product concentration (including background) not to exceed 0.02 WL. In any case, not to exceed 0.03 WL

Level of gamma radiation shall not exceed the background level by more than 20 micro roentgens per hour.

There are some things that need to be considered when adopting the 40 CFR 192 values to TENORM:

There is a good discussion of this topic in the TENORM report to Congress (NRC 1999).


NOTE: EPA recently published guidance on soil screening levels for soil.  

EPA considered regulating TENORM in the first discussion draft of 40 CFR 196, but that rule was withdrawn (EPA 1996).  It is possible in today's climate that TENORM would be regulated.  The NAS report on TENORM recommended that all radionuclides be regulated equally, including TENORM.

In practice, CERCLA is used for radioactive materials that:

CERCLA has been used at sites with byproduct material (EPA 1990). Examples are the Maywood, NJ site and the Monticello Site in Utah.  EPA has recently issued guidance documents on implementing cleanup levels under CERCLA that are risk-based to a reasonably, maximally exposed individual. 

Superfund issued a directive Use of Soil Cleanup Criteria in 40 CFR 192 as Remediation Goals for CERCLA Sites that clarifies when the UMTRCA standards can be used (EPA 1998, 1996). This is important to TENORM sites because many of the wastes are similar to uranium mill tailings in that they have Ra-226 as a principle contaminant.


EPA has started to re-evaluate risks from TENORM from various industrial sectors. They are addressing NORM on a sector by sector basis. According to the EPA web site:

“RPD's [Radiation Protection Division] strategy is a four-pronged approach to the problem:

   ·         Study the TENORM-producing industries to determine what's in the wastes from the industries and how much risk they pose.

 ·         Identify and study existing TENORM sites to assemble a nation-wide view of the problem--where the wastes are, what's in them, and the risks they present.

 ·         Develop and provide education and guidance for safely and economically controlling exposures to TENORM wastes.

 ·         Work with other organizations that are confronting the problem of TENORM, including states, tribes, other federal agencies, industry and environmental groups, and international organizations.


One such scoping document has been released, the Joint NRC/EPA Sewage Sludge Radiological Survey: Survey Design and Test Site Results (EPA 1999).  Another recent report is the “Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials in the Southwestern Copper Belt of Arizona” (EPA 1999a).


EPA also has proposed to amend its RCRA regulations at 40 CFR 266 to provide increased flexibility to facilities that manage low-level mixed waste and NARM.  The proposal will:



As mentioned earlier, USNRC regulates source, byproduct and special nuclear material under authority of the AEA. Byproduct material under USNRC control, i.e. Title II UMTRCA sites are regulated at 10 CFR 40. 

The criteria for soil are the same as UMTRCA. Thirty States have entered into agreements with USNRC and have assumed jurisdiction over the use of byproduct material. The USNRC does not license TENORM, although many States believe they have authority over TENORM in their general rules on radiation. 

Prior to the implementation of the revised 10 CFR 20 in 1996, the 1981 Branch Technical Position (BTP) addressed four options for disposal of uranium and thorium wastes (USNRC 1981)

Recent changes in USNRC policy on feed stocks for uranium mills has led to a series of reprossessing of industrial waste streams from non UMTRA sites to recover uranium. The wastes from these reprocessed materials are being disposed of in UMTRA disposal cells (USNRC 1995).  NRC has determined that they do not have authority over pre-AEA wastes (such as much of the FUSRAP wastes). This is causing consternation to some.

 More on this to followDownload my Waste Management '00 paper  "Problems Associated with Disposal of Pre-AEA Byproduct Material"

It should be noted that the USNRC staff has been busy in the last few years consistently tuning their guidance on disposal of pre-1978 byproduct material (which is essentially TENORM since its out of supposed jurisdiction of the Commission and is not under Title I (the DOE portion) of  the Act), but additionally they have been revisiting a number of areas dealing with TENORM and other uranium and radium bearing materials.  The National Mining Association submitted a white paper dealing with four aspects of the TENORM/mill tailings issues.  The Commission has been very receptive to the NMA wishes, and has been granting them steadily. They are currently evaluating the materials programs for many sectors.


DOE regulates source, byproduct, and special nuclear material through its directive system. Under DOE Order 5400.5, exposures to members of the general public are limited to an annual dose of 1 mSv (100 mrem) from all pathways, and all sources (DOE 1990). DOE has generic cleanup limits for radium and thorium based on the 40 CFR 192 criteria, with clarification on ingrowth, equilibrium, and hot spots. Authorized limits for other radionuclides are derived on a case-by-case basis. 

DOE Order 5400.5 has been proposed to be codified at 10 CFR 834, but has yet to be promulgated (DOE 1993)

DOE manages its waste through DOE Order O435.1 (DOE 1999). It treats NORM that is commingled with regulated wastes as low level waste. NORM that is not commingled is exempt. 

The Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Project (FUSRAP) addresses the cleanup of former DOE facilities that had been previously released. Oversight of this program was transferred from DOE to the Army Corps of Engineer (COE) by Congress in 1997. Guidelines issued under the FUSRAP program are essentially the same as those found in DOE Order 5400.5. 

However, the Corps is expediting cleanups at these sites, and are using risk-based cleanup levels at many of the sites. Furthermore, to save disposal costs, the Corps has sent some of the FUSRAP wastes to industrial landfills not specifically licensed for NORM. Other FUSRAP wastes have gone to Envirocare. 

The DOE, which has a large inventory of stored solid material having low amounts of radioactivity from its various defense activities, has, as of January 12, 2000, instituted a moratorium on release of metals with volumetric residual radioactivity. DOE has also established a task force to review DOE policies on release of all materials for re-use and recycling which would include public participation.  Check the scrap metal page of this site for more information.

States Regulation of TENORM

Many states consider TENORM to be regulated by their general rules on radiation. Other States believe that TENORM should have specific regulations. The Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors (CRCPD) has re-issued its Part N, Suggested State Regulation template for TENORM, along with an implementation guidance.

Thirteen states currently have regulations pertaining to TENORM, most of them based on the old CRCPD template (AK, GA, LA, ME, MS, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, SC, TX, WV). In addition to the soil criteria, some of the States also allow for clearance based on exposure rate. Michigan has promulgated regulations allowing disposal of up to 50 pCi/g Ra-226 to be disposed of in a Type 2 Municipal Landfill. New Jersey standards are based on natural background. Mississippi, Texas and New Mexico allow for land spreading under certain conditions. Kansas has guidance for NORM, but specific regulations for it have not been promulgated.  The States (and links to the regulations when available) are listed in Table 17. 

Table 17. States with TENORM regulations

Arkansas Georgia Louisiana
NORM Licensing Guide
Maine Mississippi New Jersey
New Mexico New York Ohio
Oregon South Carolina Texas - Revised April, 1999!
Pennsylvania Virginia  

Other states currently considering TENORM regulations are listed in Table 18.

Table 18. States considering TENORM regulations

Alabama Arizona Colorado
Connecticut Florida Illinois
Michigan Oklahoma New Hampshire

CRCPD Suggested State Regulations for Control of Radiation

Final draft adopted by the CRCPD Board - Now available from the CRCPD.


Some features of Part N:

Part O 

The CRCPD has developed licensing requirements for decommissioning, under Part O, facilities and land contaminated with licensed radioactive materials. In addition to defining specific requirements, Part O presents radiological criteria for the unrestricted release of lands and facilities. The limits are:

1 mSv (100 mrem) per year 

5 mSv (500 mrem) per year provided that the licensee:

Demonstrates that further reductions in residual radioactivity necessary to comply with the 1 mSv criterion are not technically achievable, would be prohibitively expensive, and would result in net public or environmental harm; 

Makes provisions for durable institutional controls; and

Provides sufficient financial assurances to enable responsible government entities or independent third parties to carry out periodic checks, monitoring, and maintenance. 

Part O is based on the USNRC license termination criteria found at 10 CFR 20. 

CRCPD has also published a characterization of TENORM-affected industries that provides alternatives addressing decommissioning (CRCPD 1994). The criteria focus is on oil and gas TENORM wastes, but may be applicable in a broader context. 

The alternatives and criteria are: 

Alternative 1 - Incremental lifetime risk rates for fatal cancers limited to 5.0 x 10-4 per rem and 440 -770 cancers per 1,000 persons exposed to 7.4 x 10+3 Bq/m3 (1 WL) radon. CRCPD also recommends that regulatory agencies initiate a consensus building effort to determine the level of risk that would be acceptable by the affected community. 

Alternative 2 - Trivial annual doses limited to 10mSv (1 mrem) to the individual and a maximum annual collective dose of 10,000 person Sv (1,000 person-rem). In its consideration, the CRCPD rejected these limits on the basis of cost, but indicated that this alternative might be appropriate in a few specific instances. 

Alternative 3 - Indoor radon limited to 148 Bq/m3 (4 pCi/L) for structures erected on land released for unrestricted use. Compliance with the MCLs of the CWA for sites with groundwater exposure pathways is also specified. An annual exposure limit of 1 mSv (100 mrem) from all sources, with 25% of the limit restricted to any single site. Contaminated equipment disposed of without removal of the contamination should be managed in a manner that makes their introduction in commerce or unrestricted use extremely unlikely. Contaminated equipment with radium concentration in excess of 185 Bq/g (5 pCi/g) should be disposed of in a manner meeting the above noted performance standards. Disposal of pipe scale in sanitary and industrial landfills should be evaluated to ensure that such facilities meet the recommended performance standards (HPS 1999).

HPS/ANSI Standard for NORM - Guide for Control and Release of NORM

In addition to the CRCPD efforts, the HPS has a working group that is developing an ANSI standard for control and release of NORM (HPS 1997a).   The standard is still in draft form, consensus has not been reached on all issues, however, some basic themes of the standard can be discussed (Dehmel 1997):

The HPS draft has been submitted to the Society (not the ANSI committee) for balloting. There has been difficulty in getting the N13 committee to approve the standard due to differences between EPA and NRC on the approach to regulating radioactive materials.  Perhaps the MOU that was signed between the two agencies on when to consult with EPA during license terminations will signal a path forward. 

There are differences between the CRCPD template for State Regulations and the HPS Standard for the basis of regulating TENORM.


The HPS has published an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard, Surface and Volume Radioactivity Standards for Unconditional Clearance (HPS 1998a). The standard replaces Reg. Guide 1.86, which was instrumentation-based, not risk-based, and therefore may not be protective of public health. It adopts the effective dose definitions of NCRP 116 (NCRP 1993), which is compatible with ICRP 60 (ICRP 1990). It lists a primary dose criteria of 10 µSv/y (1 mrem/y), above background to an average individual in a critical group for the unconditional clearance of materials from regulatory control. It provides screening levels for surface and volume contaminated material and equipment, and clearance screening levels for soil. Current BSS clearance values are based on 10 µSv/y (1 mrem/y).

Guidance Documents for TENORM

In addition to the CRCPD template for State regulations, some guidelines for the control, disposal, and release of TENORM are:

Recycling and Disposal of TENORM

Reuse of contaminated scrap metal is an industry unto itself and is the topic of much discussion. Scrap dealers and smelting facilities have detected the presence of radioactivity, including TENORM, in numerous shipments of scrap metals through the use of radiation detectors at their facilities. I maintain a section of the HPS Decommissioning Section's website on scrap metal and have it mirrored on this site Scrap Metal Recycling.

Envirocare of Utah owns a licensed facility for commercial TENORM disposal located in Clive, Utah. The licensing of this facility follows criteria similar to those pertaining to uranium mill tailings disposal.

U.S. Ecology now owns three sites.

Grand View Idaho facility:  This is a hazardous waste disposal facility that has had permit modifications pertaining to non-NRC regulated materials:

Texas Ecologists hazardous waste facility near Corpus Christi, Texas is authorized by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to accept the following radiological materials with the Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Radiation Control concurrence (only in Texas...):


The Richland, Washington U.S. Ecology Facility primarily serves as the Northwest Compact's regional facility, and only accepts NRC regulated low-level waste from the eleven states of the Northwest and Rocky Mountain Compacts.  However, the Richland site is eligible to receive non-NRC regulated NORM/NARM materials from any state without Compact restrictions.  The NORM/NARM limits are:


The Cotter Corporation Uranium mill in Canon City, Colorado is licensed to accept possess and dispose of natural uranium and thorium and progeny, however, they have not received any non-11e.(2) material for disposal.  yet.  Attempts to receive off-site wastes have been complicated by public and political opposition to using Cotter due to its location in a populated area.


International Uranium Corporation (IUC) in Blanding, Utah accepts material that uranium can be recovered from.  More WAC to follow.

Newpark Environmental TENORM Processing Facility of Port Arthur Texas accepts TENORM wastes for processing for injection into deep wells.

Campbell Wells Corporation of Lafayette, Louisiana accepts TENORM and NOW for treatment and disposal.

Efforts have been made to convince NRC to allow disposal of TENORM wastes in 11e.(2) disposal cells. NRC staff published a notice in the Federal Register on September 22, 1995, stating that "Radioactive material not regulated under the AEA shall not be authorized for disposal in an 11e.(2) byproduct material impoundment" (NRC 1995). If the material is run through the mill to recover the uranium ,then the spoils can be disposed in the mill tailings impoundment. This guidance was updated in November, 2000.  Click on the link below for a more detailed discussion of direct disposal and alternate feeds.

This is being utilized in Utah, where IUC is recovering uranium from various wastes obtained from other industries. One instance has been challenged as sham recycling, because if the feed has RCRA waste in it, the mill cannot run the feed. The first feed had hydrofluoric acid in it a (RCRA-regulated wastes), but NRC and DOE performed administrative changes to allow the waste to be processed. More on this topic here.


There have been a number of cases where the improper disposal of TENORM wastes has resulted in increased levels of direct gamma exposure to individuals:

Last Updated: