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NNSA conducting radiation survey over Washington, DC

NNSA helicopter

A helicopter from the agency charged with U.S. nuclear security will be flying low over the Washington, DC, area to measure background radiation levels in the coming weeks.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said on Dec. 26 that it would be flying a helicopter over portions of Washington between Dec. 27, 2012 and Jan. 11, 2013 to measure naturally-occurring radiation levels in the area.

The agency has conducted similar overflights in other cities, including Baltimore and San Francisco, earlier in 2012. It explained that the measurement of naturally-occurring radiation to establish baseline levels is a normal part of security and emergency preparedness. It said it was making the public aware of the upcoming flights so citizens who see the low-flying aircraft aren’t alarmed.

According to NNSA, the radiation assessment in Washington will cover approximately 70 square miles and it would use a helicopter equipped with remote gamma radiation sensing technology during the operation. The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the areas, said NNSA, 150 feet or higher above the ground surface, at a speed of approximately 80 miles per hour. Flyovers will occur only during daylight hours and it is estimated to take about two weeks to complete the assessment, it said.

The NNSA’s Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) out of Joint Base Andrews will be performing the assessment for local law enforcement of Washington, D.C. The RSL at Andrews also provided the aircraft for the Balitmore assessment. NNSA used a twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter, operated by the Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measuring System in Las Vegas, NV for the flights over San Francisco.


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