The international Basis Safety Standards (International BSS) [IAEA, 1996] and the Council Directive of the European Union of 1996 for protection of workers and the general public against ionizing radiation [Euratom, 1996] paid specific attention to exposure of sources of natural radiation. According to the Euratom BSS, Member States of the European Union were obliged to identify work activities that may lead to a significant increase in exposure, both to workers and to members of the public. The national regulations of the Member States had to comply with the BSS within a period of four years after its date of publication, i. e. before 13 May 2000.
This new legal framework resulted in challenges for non-nuclear industries which process, treat or otherwise handle natural radiation sources. The natural radiation sources in these industries differ from the man-made radiation sources used in technical applications of radioactivity. In the non-nuclear industry, large volumes of raw materials are processed. The naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) in these materials can be unintendedly concentrated during the processing, or is already present in enhanced concentrations. Much of the NORM can be found in the waste streams of these industries, and the radiological problems connected herewith are well known in certain branches, such as the phosphate industry, oil & gas production, etc. However, the processing of raw materials in various other branches also generates waste with concentrations of NORM that are not to be neglected. It was evident from the new Standards that regulatory control should also be extended to the waste of these industries. A number of industries working with raw materials were therefore confronted with a new kind of regulatory control, affecting their production facilities and waste management policies. Since these industries, in general, generate large volumes of waste several questions were raised regarding financial, practical and logistic disposal problems.
Against this background KEMA, in the Netherlands, took the initiative to organize the first “International Symposium on Radiological Problems with Natural Radioactivity in the Non-Nuclear Industry” held in Amsterdam, 8-10 September 1997.
The conclusions from this symposium were that problems with NORM are encountered in a wide variety of industries (phosphate, steel, mineral sands, oil & gas, uranium & thorium, metals & rare earths, chemical industry). A need was stated for international consensus on radiation protection guidelines in the non-nuclear industries on exemption and clearance levels for large volumes of bulk goods and on waste management and disposal routes. It was also emphasized that symposia like this are necessary for a better understanding of regulators and industry in order to come to a generally accepted radiation protection policy in this sector. From the audience came a pressing request for a follow-up by a second symposium like this or for special workshops.
The second symposium was organized under the patronage of Siempelkamp and held in Krefeld (Germany), 10-13 November 1998. Main topics were the impacts of BSS to industries dealing with NORM and the implementation into national legislation. Harmonization between the EU member states was identified as an important issue.
Three years later the third symposium hosted by FANC, Belgium, was organized in Brussels from 17-21 September 2001. The status of the implementation of the BSS at national level was addressed. In a series of technical sessions the experience gained in different NORM-industries was presented. The societal discussion on NORM-issues was a special topic of this edition of the symposium.
In 2004, 16-21 May, the NORM IV Symposium was hosted by the Central Mining Institute, Katowice. At this time, Poland had joined the European Union and it was the aim to inform Eastern European Member States about the progress and regulatory status of NORM in Europe. This symposium was the first of the series jointly organised with the IAEA Vienna.
The close involvement of the IAEA in the NORM symposia and other conferences focussed on natural radiation worldwide resulted in a formal cooperation arrangement with the organizing body of the NORM V Symposium, the University of Seville. This fifth symposium was held 19-22 March 2007 in Seville. The NORM V Symposium was held exactly one decade after the first symposium in the series and provided an important opportunity to review the many developments that had taken place over this period. It also coincided with various current initiatives to review and revise international recommendations and standards on radiation protection and safety.
In 2010, for the first time the NORM VI Symposium moved out of Europe to be held in Marrakech, Morocco, from 22-26 March.
The announcement for NORM VII, to be held in Kochi, India, in 2013 under the patronage of IAEA shows the worldwide interest in the topic.
The NORM symposia have developed from being a European conference to now being a conference series with worldwide participation. This is beneficial for NORM issues in a global context. Nevertheless, the original idea of a European forum for the scientific, technical and regulatory communities involved in NORM is still valid for reason that in the mean time the European Commission has undertaken a comprehensive revision and recast of the Basic Safety Standards Directive. In this process the management of natural radiation sources has given more prominence. NORM industries will be fully incorporated in the overall regulatory system in the same way as for other practices, and the incorporation of NORM residues in building materials is explicitly addressed. This will have far-reaching consequences for the management of NORM materials in Europe. Hence, a European forum for the scientific, technical and regulatory communities involved in NORM issues is necessary, even before the adoption of the Directive by the Council and its transposition in national legislation.
The NORM network (www.ean-norm.net) which was set up in 2007 and which has so far organized three workshops in Dresden and is planning a fourth in Hasselt in 2011, provides in parts such a forum. However beside the NORM network there is also room for conferences similar to the international NORM conference series but with a focus on European conditions.