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Radiation risksHelicopter monitors radiation levels in Washington, D.C.

Published 8 January 2013

For the last week, a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) helicopter has been flying over Washington, D.C., measuring naturally occurring radiation levels; the purpose is to establish a baseline of radiation levels so that abnormal spikes – occurring, for example, as a result of exploding a dirty bomb — may be readily detected

NNSA is monitoring radiation levels in the nation's capitol // Source:

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said it has been flying a helicopter over portions of Washington, D.C., since 27 December  to measure naturally occurring radiation in the Washington, D.C., area.

The surveillance flights will continue until 11 January.

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

The agency says that the measurement of naturally occurring radiation to establish baseline levels is a normal part of security and emergency preparedness.

The NNSA’s Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) out of Joint Base Andrews is performing the assessment for local law enforcement of Washington, D.C.

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