What's Up With That?

Low-flying helicopters part of area-wide radiation assessment.

The low-flying helicopters you may see in the area this month are part of an radiation assessment by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the federal agency that maintains the U.S.'s nuclear weapons stockpile.

The helicopters began flying over the last week, measuring naturally occurring radiation, according to the group's website.

The flights will continue until Jan. 11 during daylight hours only.

Pilots fly at about 80 miles per hour at 150 feet or higher over the 70-square mile radiation assessment area, NNSA officials said.

Scientists with NNSA’s Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) out of Joint Base Andrews will use remote gamma radiation-sensing instrumentals to carry out the assessments.

Naturally-occurring radiation is measured so that baseline levels can be established and used in security and emergency preparedness, scientists said.  

In addition to monitoring radiation levels and responding to radiological emergencies on the home front, the agency provides the U.S. Navy with nuclear propulsion and works to reduce the global danger of weapons of mass destruction, according to a release issued by the agency.

Congress established the agency in 2000 as a semi-autonomous unit within the U.S. Department of Energy.



John Lovaas January 02, 2013 at 10:36 AM
How will we learn the results of this assessment and their significance?
Terry Maynard January 02, 2013 at 03:57 PM
For geological reasons I can't possibly understand, the Reston area is a hot bed of naturally produced radioactive radon. I believe it has to do with the clay soil that predominates in the area. The radon is dangerous in homes even at relatively low levels. When we moved to our home (26 years ago), we installed a radon evacuation system. This is little more than a vacuum linked to gravel under our house's foundation that exhausts through our garage roof. It sucks the radon out with the air. Radon is dangerous because prolonged exposure (like living in a house for years) can cause lung cancer even at low radon levels. My wife and I know. Her parents died of radon-caused lung cancer, an especially aggressive and deadly lung cancer form, after living in their Iowa home a quarter century. Neither was ever a smoker. You can check the radon level in your home by buying a simple kit at a hardware store. Over several days to a month (longer is more accurate), it collects a sample of the air in your basement (or other lowest point in the home). The kit is sent to the manufacturer who sends you the results of the analysis. Do this if you have not done so already. It could prevent an early and unwarranted death of a loved one.
the-stix January 02, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Jamie.. since Patch has published this potentially alarming story, and already another poster has raised concerns even further, I suggest you (and Patch) commit to a follow-up story as to the NNSA testing results for the Reston area.
Emily Karam January 02, 2013 at 09:43 PM
And don't rely on acceptable radon level results from a test done prior to the earthquake. It may have caused unseen house foundation problems. Have another test done.


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