Thursday, August 30, 2012

Low-flying helicopters over Berkeley are measuring radiation levels

Tracey Taylor

Many Berkeley residents have been in touch with us today asking about the helicopters that have been flying overhead, across the city and also into Oakland. A call to Berkeley Police Department confirms that the choppers are out measuring baseline radiation levels.

The flyovers are part of research by two federal security agencies — the Department of Homeland Security and the National Nuclear Security Administration — to compare aerial and ground based mapping of radioactivity, according to a story in the Contra Costa Times.

The National Nuclear Security Administration agency says the project will help local, state and federal authorities’measure radiation. Radioactive sources — such as uranium, radon gas and carbon-14 — have been present in the Earth’s crust since it was formed. (Read the NNSA press release.)

While the purpose may be worthy, the low-flying choppers — they need to fly at around 300 ft — are not proving popular with everyone. “It’s driving me batty,” said Berkeleysider Emily Cohen.

Update, 6:00pm: Berkeley Police say the helicopter will be making daily flights for five days, between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1, 2012. “The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the locations about 300 feet above the ground,” they said in a release.

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