Beginning Aug. 27, a helicopter may be seen flying at a low-level altitude over portions of San Francisco, Pacifica and Oakland, Calif. The helicopter will be taking measurements of naturally-occurring background radiation. The helicopter will make daily flights between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1, 2012.
The flyovers are a part of a joint research project between the Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to assess natural background radiation levels. The survey will cover approximately 69 square miles over the selected locations. NNSA’s twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter, operated by the Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measuring System in Las Vegas, Nev., will perform the survey. The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the locations about 300 feet above the ground. The flights will be limited to daylight hours and the survey is estimated to take about five days to complete.
The background data will be used by DNDO and NNSA to improve aerial radiation measurement capabilities used by local, state and federal entities.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.