Low-Flying Helicopter Over Bay Area Cities Surveying Radiation Levels

A helicopter will be flying low over the Bay Area this week as part of a federal research program measuring background radiation, according to federal and local officials.

The helicopter, a twin-engine Bell 412 equipped with gamma radiation sensors, will be flying in a grid pattern today through Sunday at 300 feet or higher over cities including San Francisco, Pacifica, Berkeley and Oakland, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The survey is part of a study by the Department of Homeland Security Domestic Nuclear Detection Office intended to help improve the ability to detect and measure radiation from the air, the agency said in a statement.

The agency conducted a similar survey over the same areas in 2012, according to Berkeley city officials.

A schedule provided by Berkeley city staff indicates the helicopter is expected to travel over San Francisco today, the Berkeley area tomorrow and San Francisco and Pacifica on Thursday and Friday this week.

However, the flights are highly weather dependent, city officials said.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is an agency within the Department of Energy responsible for military applications of nuclear science.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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