Processed Radioactive Materials

When we take naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), like those found in rock and soil, and alter the natural environment so that these materials become more accessible to human contact, the resultant radioactive materials are called TENORM—technically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials.

Mining is a good example of an activity resulting in exposure to TENORM. We use a variety of tools to bring rocks and soils that were previously inaccessible out of the mines, take from them the minerals we want, and treat the rest as radioactive waste. This waste is now out of the ground, is concentrated, and can come in contact with humans.

Mining is the most common source of TENORM (which most often contains radium, thorium, and uranium), but these radioactive materials are also created in mineral processing and in gas and oil production.