Low-flying helicopter surveys Bay Area radiation levels

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

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 Tuesday, the Berkeley area Wednesday 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.
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