Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) is at best not well understood. NORM is a byproduct of many oil and gas type refining processes. NORM can be found/identified when producing propane, natural gas, crude oil, propylene, and polypropylene, just to name a few. Some facilities maintain good, best management processes, which help to limit NORM exposure, cross-contamination, and dissemination, whereas others do not maintain these processes. Often workers do not understand the risk associated with the NORM containing products.
IKON has worked in and with numerous facilities that have NORM issues and has seen good, best management practices, bad best management practices, and just plain ugly (no) management practices. Often these different outcomes of management practices are directly related to each facility’s level of awareness concerning NORM.
For example, some of the good Sites, which have competent NORM best management practices are often pipeline pigging Sites. Most pipeline companies, or their maintenance providers, have expertise because NORM is an issue with specific geological formations, wells, and/or petroleum feedstocks. Therefore, they also have sophisticated health and safety plans, radiation protection programs, Radiation Safety Officers (RSOs), waste management plans, and decontamination protocols. These plans, and their advanced planning, enable the pipelines, their maintenance providers, and their contractors to operate at a highly advanced level. This advanced level, in relation to NORM, helps to protect, contain, decontaminate, and provide efficient waste disposal protocols for their pigging activities, cleaning activities, and decontamination activities. Good NORM practices for most pipelines include scheduled, controlled, and closely orchestrated movements and surfacing of the pigs. The pigs are surfaced into catchment basins with decontamination crews awaiting their surfacing, with correct PPE, plans, decontamination preparation zones, containerization for the wastes, and decontamination containment trailers to clean the pigs (most pigs these days are smart pigs) to prevent cross-contamination or movement of NORM from one Site to another (not all parts of the pipeline contain NORM or the same amounts of NORM). In general, when we think about what “good” looks like for containing and limiting NORM contamination, pigging pipelines with proper preparations, are normally an arranged and “good” outcome.