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    New guidance on handling naturally occurring radioactive materials

    Publications // October 20, 2009

    The correct handling of small quantities of solid naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) is important to avoid issues of occupational health and safety, environmental protection, waste disposal and management.

    NORM can be generated in petroleum production facilities and associated pipes, flowlines and other equipment which may be handled by personnel within the offshore oil and gas industry. With safety in mind, the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) has published ‘Guidance on Handling Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials’ (IMCA SEL 024).

    “The new document provides readers with a clear insight into the relatively low-risk nature of working with NORM found in the offshore oil and gas industry,” explained IMCA’s Chief Executive, Hugh Williams. “It provides guidelines on monitoring and on handling of these materials; information on the substances involved and the risks presented, and a brief overview of some of the regulations applicable to the transport of radioactive waste.

    “If NORM is handled correctly, it poses no health hazards. We recognise that working with radioactive material can be an emotive subject. Ill-considered use of terminology can cause workforce concerns and possible media attention with subsequent likelihood of poor publicity. This may result in regulatory bodies acting from the very best motives to implement regulations not suited or intended for use in the offshore oil and gas industry.”

    Although NORM is the name most often used to describe the naturally occurring radioactive material encountered in the oil and gas industry, it is sometimes referred to as ‘LSA’ (low specific activity) material. NORM (LSA scale) can be found in a variety of forms, and can be encountered during oil production from oil and gas wells. Additionally, much process plant in the oil, gas and produced water handling systems may be internally contaminated with NORM, and sea-water pumps and injection equipment can become contaminated by low levels of radioactivity after many years’ usage, owing to background levels of radiation in seawater.

    The guidance is available for downloading via the members-only website, with additional printed copies available to members priced at £2.50, and £5.00 for non-members (both plus 20% for delivery outside Europe). Further information on all aspects of IMCA’s work for, and on behalf of its 600+ members in over 50 countries, is available at and from the Association at 5 Lower Belgrave Street, London SW1W 0NR, UK. Tel: +44 (0)20 7824 5520; Fax: +44 (0)20 7824 5521. Email:

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