Radioactive oil and gas waste criss-crossing the country

NORM is a term for Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material.

TENORM is a term for Technologically Enhanced NORM.

Generally, when it comes to solid oil and gas waste rather than wastewater, the source of the NORM is drill cuttings and other drilling waste.

In an EnergyWire story today, North Dakota's chief of environmental enforcement states: "we're seeing a lot more TENORM material....... Some of it isn't ending up where it should."

North Dakota landfills can accept material with radiation below 5 picocuries. Material with higher levels is taken to out-of-state facilities (a picocurie is one-trillionth of a curie, which is a measure of radioactivity and how many radioactive atoms within any group of atoms are giving off radiation). The industry is quoted in this article as saying that some of the waste is being trucked from North Dakota to Texas.

In Pennsylvania, the radiation limit for landfills is 10 microrem above background (a microrem is one millionth of a rem, which is a measure of radiation dose and how much radioactive energy is being transmitted to something or someone). Waste from Pennsylvania with radium-226 above this level is being shipped to Idaho.

Do Texas and Idaho have safer places for disposal of this waste than North Dakota and Pennsylvania, or just weaker rules? And why is the waste from North Dakota not being shipped to Idaho, which is closer than Texas?

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Policy Analyst, Land & Wildlife program

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