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Helicopters to check for radiation in D.C.

Thursday - 12/27/2012, 6:38am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - An unusual number of low-flying helicopters will be in the Washington region throughout the next two weeks checking for radiation.

The helicopters will fly a 70-square-mile grid around D.C. and will fly 150 feet above the ground through Jan. 11. They will take baseline levels of naturally occurring radiation. The helicopters could fly as fast as 80 mph.

The mission from the National Nuclear Security Administration is part of an effort to that would allow the FBI and other law enforcement to warn the public about higher radiation levels should there be an accident or terrorist incident involving nuclear material.

There are two nuclear power plants within 90 miles of D.C. They are Calvert Cliffs in in Lusby, Md. and North Anna in Virginia's Louisa County.

Additionally, freight trains travel right through the D.C. just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

Concern has been expressed in the past about a rail accident involving hazardous material though it's not clear whether the trains ever carry anything that might be radioactive.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.