Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) Working Group

Working Group Lead: Dr. Thuro Arnold, Dr. Susanne Sachs (Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Germany)


Working Group Overview

The working group (WG) “naturally occurring radioactive materials” (NORM) is concerned with research related to science-based risk assessment, remediation and regulation of NORM-impacted sites and wastes arising from industries processing or generating NORM. Thus, to provide scientific basis and support for these, WG NORM aims to develop:

  • Source-specific sampling strategies for the characterization of NORM-contaminated sites which should take into account the needs of the respective models,  
  • A process-based understanding of the migration of naturally occurring radionuclides (NOR) in the environment, including transfer into biota and the human food chain, taking chemical and (micro-)biological processes into account and to transfer this knowledge into hydrogeological and hydrogeochemical mechanistic models,
  • Projective modelling of the transport and distribution of NOR in the environment on different timescales from years to millennia, including dose assessments to humans and biota.

Due to the complexity of NORM sites, which are characterised, for instance, by complex mixtures of different chemical compounds and minerals as well as by disequilibria in radionuclide decay chains, difficulties in assessing the exposure originating from NORM-contaminated sites arise not only from a lack of reliable data but also from the inadequacy of existing model concepts.

WG NORM intends to build up a profound multidisciplinary mechanistic process understanding using research findings from basic science and proposes to transfer this new knowledge into applications with the aim of improving radiological protection of human health and the environment. The main objectives and intended activities are (1) the improvement of risk assessments for existing and future NORM sites, (2) the refinement of process-based models by quantifying the transport behaviour of NOR from NORM sites into uncontaminated environments by including chemical/geochemical and biological/microbiological  processes, and (3) the development of a mechanistic understanding of chemical and biological processes on a molecular scale and the translation of this knowledge into advanced outcome pathways able to support the development of robust sub-models useful for predicting exposure effects and doses. Research performed within WG NORM is expected to provide a solid scientific basis for decisions in terms of radiation protection related to the risks of NORM sites. It will also pave the way for new strategies for a sustainable rehabilitation and remediation of NORM sites. This can only be achieved by linking the work of experimentalists and modellers. Through this programme of work, WG NORM contributes to Challenge 1 of the Radioecology Strategic Research Agenda (SRA).

Working Group Activities

The ALLIANCE topical roadmap WG NORM was initiated in 2014 as a result of the EC-funded project COMET. In the following years, partners involved in WG NORM contributed to the project TERRITORIES (2017-2020) that was funded under the first call of the European Joint Programme CONCERT. In addition, initial bilateral collaborations of WG NORM members were established resulting in the joint supervision of PhD students. In June 2019, a workshop of the WG was organized to foster collaboration between WG members, to develop ideas for joint projects and to contribute to the update of the ALLIANCE strategic research agenda in radioecology. In the main topical session of the workshop “Modelling and molecular process understanding” the participants discussed the development of biogeochemical models for the description of the transport of NOR in the environment. As a result of such joint activities some members of WG NORM will participate in the EC-funded project RadoNorm that is expected to start in September 2020.

Working Group Members

Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK CEN, Belgium); Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (BfS, Germany); Centralne Laboratorium Ochrony Radiologicznej (CLOR, Poland); Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT, Spain); Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA, France); Główny Instytut Górnictawa (GIG, Poland); Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR, Germany); Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health (IMROH, Croatia); IN2P3/Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS, France); Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN, France); Instituto Superior Téchnico (IST, Portugal); Laboratorio de Radiactividad Ambiental de la Universidad de Extremadura (LARUEX, Spain); National Centre for Scientific Research “Demokritos” (NCSR”D”, Greece); UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH, United Kingdom); Norwegian University of Life Science (NMBU); NRG-Consultancy and Services (NRG, The Netherlands); Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (DSA); Säteilyturvakeskus/Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK, Finland); University of Aveiro (UA, Portugal); University of Barcelona (UB, Spain); University of Granada (UGR, Spain); University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU, Spain); University of Porto (UP, Portugal).

Associated partner

Mike Thorne (consultant, United Kingdom)


Any member of the ALLIANCE can become a member of a Working Group (email the appropriate Working Group Leader).

1The expression NORM denotes NORM (naturally occurring radioactive materials) sites as well as TENORM (technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials) sites.