January 7th, 2013
07:52 PM ET

Taking to the air on hunt for dirty bomb threats

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd

Residents of Washington may be surprised by a helicopter flying low overhead this week, endlessly prowling the city to map its radiation signature.

The helicopter is crisscrossing the city, like a lawn mower covering a lawn, flying as low as just 150 feet off the ground. CNN spotted it northwest of downtown on Monday, flying low over the buildings, back and forth, east to west.

The purpose: to produce a baseline scan of the natural radiological readings in the capital. Once the map is done, any new anomalies - or suspicious radioactive activity - could be more easily detected.

If authorities ever need to find stolen radioactive material in the capital or a dirty bomb, they would want to be able to separate out any new spikes in the radioactivity readings.

"If sometime in the future you have a reason to be looking for something radiological, it's very necessary to have the original background so you don't chase a high-radiation area that's part of the background," said Joseph Krol of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, which is conducting the work.

"If there was some type of threat," he said, "we would do the aerial survey first." Then, officers with sensors would go on foot to the location where an anomaly was found. A team could be deployed anywhere in the country within two hours, he said.

"The way we operate," he said, "we assume every time we get a call, that this is the big one."

The scan of the District of Columbia will cover 70 square miles and take about two weeks to complete. But if authorities were urgently trying to find nuclear material, Krol said, "we would hope that scanning the entire city would not be necessary. You always have other indicators, like intelligence, that narrows down the search area."

A dirty bomb - a bomb with no atomic explosion, but spewing enough radioactive material to require evacuations and quarantines - is a method of attack that terrorists would be highly interested in, according to Randy Larsen with the Institute for Homeland Security.

"The good news is, it wouldn't kill a lot of people," he said. "But if you did it here in downtown Washington D.C., or Wall Street in New York City, and the people can't go back in that area for a long time, that's a pretty significant event."

But could a hidden dirty bomb be detected from a helicopter?

"Absolutely," said Larsen, but only after a detailed scan has been done. "This would tend to make something stick out like a sore thumb. Without it, it would be looking for a needle in a haystack."

Two pilots, a scientist, a technician and equipment for detecting gamma radiation are aboard the flights.

Everyday radiation can come from several common urban sources, including industrial sites, construction sites, hospitals that use radiological materials, and even the stone used in buildings and monuments.

The agency has already scanned the capital once before, as well as New York, Baltimore, and San Francisco.

Larsen said the New York scan turned up unexpected sources of radiation - industrial accidents that were never been reported. "They were surprised how many hot spots they found," he said.

The helicopter in Washington is making an exception for the National Zoo, giving it a wider berth to avoid scaring the animals. But Krol said the public should not be worried about the survey's potential impact on people.

"These scanners are passive," he said. "All they're doing is measuring the emanations coming from the ground."

Watch: Surviving a "dirty bomb"

soundoff (307 Responses)
  1. pharmacepticacom

    hydroxychoriquin https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 29, 2021 at 2:06 am | Reply
  2. pharmaceptica.com

    tadalafil troche cost https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 27, 2021 at 2:58 am | Reply
  3. pharmaceptica.com

    how to erectile dysfunction https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 24, 2021 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  4. pharmacepticacom

    generic tadalafil from uk https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 21, 2021 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  5. cheap mlb jerseys from China

    I'm gone to tell my little brother, that he should
    also go to see this web site on regular basis to get updated cheap mlb jerseys from China most recent information. http://rudyoqf4kjr.Ek1.pl/2021/06/01/north-park-phase-aztecs-get-rid-kawhi-leonard-to-positively/ https://www.liveinternet.ru/users/c3vaimy417/post484412473// https://www.liveinternet.ru/users/g2joban931/post484420205//

    June 9, 2021 at 10:37 am | Reply
  6. hydroksychlorochina

    choroquine leflunomide chloraquine

    June 7, 2021 at 2:34 am | Reply
  7. hydroxychloroquine bnf

    when was hydroxychloroquine first used chloroquine side effects hydrachloroquine

    June 6, 2021 at 2:53 pm | Reply
  8. cialis 20mg

    tadalafil from india reviews buy cialis online tadalafil dosage

    June 5, 2021 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  9. tadalafil cost walmart

    maxim peptide tadalafil review tadalafil dosage evolution peptides tadalafil

    June 5, 2021 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  10. buy aralen online uk

    can hydroxychloroquine cause blindness aralen chloroquine phosphate what is hydroxychlor used for

    June 5, 2021 at 10:06 am | Reply
  11. apposyattance

    tadalafil online https://tadagatadalafil.com/ buy tadalis tadalafil cialis cialis without a prescription

    May 27, 2021 at 10:10 am | Reply
  12. spearfDrore

    buy cialis pills cialis without a prescription tadalafil cost walmart tadalafil order online no prescription https://tadalafilol.com/

    May 27, 2021 at 6:31 am | Reply
  13. CleplePewCred

    what is tadalafil tadalafil without a doctor prescription buy tadalafil https://tadagatadalafil.com/

    May 27, 2021 at 5:30 am | Reply
  14. Elmerglund

    Активы УК «Альфа-Капитал» превысили 10 миллиардов долларов
    sec предупредила инвесторов о рисках касаемо биткоина
    Эксперты объяснили, почему Путин не затронул тему индексации пенсий работающим

    May 26, 2021 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  15. RaymondMew

    5 ИДЕЙ Для хобби
    Ева в салоне красоты для детей. Красота страшная сила. pretend play beauty salon. princess makeup.

    May 26, 2021 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  16. Greryclilteta

    tadalafil goodrx https://tadalafilol.com/ – where to buy generic cialis online safely canada generic tadalafil side effects of tadalafil https://tadacipetadalafil.com/

    May 25, 2021 at 5:24 pm | Reply
  17. CleplePewCred

    tadalafil liquid https://cttadalafil.com/ best price usa tadalafil buy tadalis cost tadalafil generic

    May 25, 2021 at 11:23 am | Reply
  18. brimonidine

    buy combigan online generic brimonidine

    May 25, 2021 at 4:09 am | Reply
  19. spearfDrore

    buy generic cialis online with mastercard https://cttadalafil.com/ tadalafil cost walmart tadalafil side effects tadalafil generic where to buy

    May 25, 2021 at 12:56 am | Reply
  20. cyclosporine

    cyclosporine eye drops cyclosporine emulsion drops

    May 23, 2021 at 6:22 pm | Reply
  21. spearfDrore

    https://tadalafilww.com/ tadalafil cost in canada https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ – tadalafil goodrx where to buy tadalafil on line

    May 23, 2021 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  22. storno brzinol

    I'd incessantly want to be update on new blog posts on this site, saved to fav! .

    http://www.stornobrzinol.com/

    May 22, 2021 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  23. brimonidine

    generic brimonidine brimonidine tartrate

    May 16, 2021 at 4:54 am | Reply
  24. avanafil

    buy avanafil canada buy avana canada

    May 15, 2021 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  25. hydroxychloroquine aralen

    chlorquine https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chloroquinw

    May 4, 2021 at 11:02 am | Reply
  26. dapoxetine

    dapoxetine prescription usa priligy generic

    May 3, 2021 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  27. cialis canadian pharmacy

    canadian pharmacy no perscription generic cialis https://canadacialisstore.com/ buy cialis online canadian

    May 2, 2021 at 10:43 am | Reply
  28. online erectile dysfunction prescription

    discount erectile dysfunction medications https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile breast tissue

    May 2, 2021 at 9:55 am | Reply
  29. canadian pills pharmacy

    best canadian mail order pharmacies for diet pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian generic pills

    May 2, 2021 at 2:37 am | Reply
  30. canada viagra scam

    how much is viagra in canada https://canadaviagrastore.com/ viagra sin recetas en farmacias de canada

    April 27, 2021 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  31. nonton LK21

    Vеry ɡood іnfo. Lucky me I ran across your bⅼog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I've bookmarked itt fоr ⅼater!

    April 27, 2021 at 3:11 am | Reply
  32. tadalafil dosage

    order tadalafil https://elitadalafill.com/ generic tadalafil united states

    April 22, 2021 at 11:36 pm | Reply
  33. sildenafil citrate sublingual

    cost of 100mg sildenafil https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ sildenafil online india

    April 20, 2021 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  34. Dennisles

    Изучаем методы омоложения: плюсы и минусы фотодинамической терапии
    http://ladyinwhite.ru/krasota/sovety-kotorye-pomogyt-vygliadet-na-10-let-moloje/
    http://ladyinwhite.ru/moda/dmitrii-dujev-prokommentiroval-svou-bolezn/

    April 19, 2021 at 2:59 am | Reply
  35. Timothydothe

    Как сложить простынь на резинке
    Наполнители для матрасов и их виды, что лучше выбрать
    Подушки из бамбука: из чего делают, плюсы и минусы, как выбрать

    April 19, 2021 at 2:13 am | Reply
  36. illegal sales of alprostadil

    alprostadil ingredients 745-65-3 https://alprostadildrugs.com/ alprostadil vs bimix vs trimix

    April 18, 2021 at 6:05 am | Reply
  37. buy vardenafil online without presciption

    us prices on vardenafil https://vegavardenafil.com/ teva pharms vardenafil

    April 17, 2021 at 2:48 am | Reply
  38. Austinwexia

    https://sms-service-online.com/en/api-sms-activate/

    April 17, 2021 at 12:20 am | Reply
  39. Audreylob

    https://7converter.com/en/download-mp3

    April 16, 2021 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  40. Ashtonomige

    https://7converter.com/

    April 16, 2021 at 1:21 am | Reply
  41. JamesAcify

    https://sms-service-online.com/en/api-sms-activate/

    April 15, 2021 at 4:23 pm | Reply
1 2 3

Leave a Reply to RaymondMew


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.