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The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is conducting a detailed flyover of Los Alamos National Laboratory this week to measure background radiation.
The information will be compared to results from a similar aerial survey conducted in 1994. Data will also be used for environmental assessments and activities.
“The information derived from this survey will be important to our long-term site environmental stewardship plans,” said Kevin Smith, manager of the NNSA’s Los Alamos Site Office. “LASO and the lab are actively assessing operational impacts, past and present, on the environment. This survey data will help ensure we have the reference data we need for managing the site’s infrastructure.”
The flyover, conducted by the DOE’s Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) in Las Vegas., Nev., is scheduled Aug. 7 through Aug. 12, weather permitting. The RSL’s silver and black Bell 412 helicopter is equipped with sodium iodide detectors designed to sense gamma emitters including cesium and americium. It will fly at about 150 feet above the ground, at about 80 miles per hour and will cover approximately 60 square miles.
Measurements from the flyover will be calibrated so they are equivalent to measurements taken 1 meter above ground, facilitating easy comparisons to more conventional ground-based surveys.
Flight activities have been coordinated through the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Emergency Operations Center.
Following the survey, the RSL will prepare a report for NNSA’s Los Alamos Site Office.
If an area has readings above background levels, LASO will evaluate the need for additional investigation or other actions.
A report will be available to the public, though some information may be withheld for national security reasons.