New IAEA database to collect data on NORM exposure for industrial workers

June 28, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
A shot from a coal mine in Poland. (Photo: IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency has launched a new database of the Information System on Occupational Exposure in Medicine, Industry, and Research (ISEMIR) for workers in industrial processes involving naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). The new database, ISEMIR-N, joins two existing databases in the ISEMIR system: ISEMIR-IC, for workers in interventional cardiology, and ISEMIR-IR, for workers in industrial radiography.

NORM in the workplace: Over 24 million workers around the world are employed in industries that involve exposure to NORM, including mining, oil and gas production, mineral sands, water treatment, metal refining and recycling, phosphate production, and geothermal energy, according to the IAEA on June 17.

“NORM is any naturally occurring material which contains no significant amounts of radionuclides other than radionuclides of natural origin such as uranium-238 (U-238), thorium-232 (Th-232), and potassium-40 (K-40),” said Jizeng Ma, head of the IAEA’s Occupational Radiation Protection Unit, adding that “while most industrial processes involving NORM do not require radiation monitoring, certain work activities can give rise to enhanced exposure that needs to be controlled by robust regulation and monitoring.”

ISEMIR essentials: ISEMIR allows personnel responsible for radiation protection in medicine, industry, and research to provide information to the IAEA and other interested stakeholders on the types of sources and exposures their workers will be subject to, what forms of monitoring their workers have, and the exposure levels of workers. The system gives users a comparison of their performance relative to industry benchmarks and may allow the IAEA and stakeholders to draw broad conclusions to improve the radiation protection infrastructure of operators in industries involving NORM.

They said it: “We hope that ISEMIR-N will enhance the ability to conduct assessment of occupational exposure and make benchmarking for their own radiation protection programs to operators in NORM industries worldwide,” said Ma. “The IAEA-ISEMIR online platform will contribute to meeting the needs of operators; to the assessment, development and further enhancement of overarching industry trends in occupational radiation protection; and to improving communication between operators in NORM industries and the IAEA.”

Irena Petrova, radiation protection inspector at the State Office for Nuclear Safety in the Czech Republic, said, “After my prior experience working with ISEMIR-IR for industrial radiography, I am very excited to see its expansion to the industries involving NORM. I hope that this will provide the same benefit that ISEMIR-IR saw in terms of the assessment of our local radiation protection programs relative to a global community.”

Visit ISEMIR-N: ISEMIR-N can be reached through the ISEMIR platform or through the IAEA’s Occupational Radiation Protection Networks (ORPNET) platform. ORPNET contains information and news in occupational radiation protection, as well as training, e-learning, publications, and regional and international radiation protection networks.

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