Gundersen: Airplane air filters coming back from Australia were contaminated with Fukushima radioactivity in months after 3/11 (VIDEO)

Published: September 23rd, 2012 at 7:10 pm ET


Interview with Nuclear Engineer Arnie Gundersen
Capitol Forum (Sundays at 8a CT)
Sept 23, 2012

At ~35:00 in

Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen, Nuclear Engineer: We have all this data from aviation mechanics that in indicate last year… March, April, May, that the planes on those polar routes over to Japan and China and Taiwan and South Korea — and also Australia — were coming back with contaminated air filters.

Stream the full broadcast here

Published: September 23rd, 2012 at 7:10 pm ET


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26 comments to Gundersen: Airplane air filters coming back from Australia were contaminated with Fukushima radioactivity in months after 3/11 (VIDEO)

  • Mack Mack

    So the "privileged" Japanese who fled Japan after the meltdowns for Shanghai, China and South America were not immune to radiation exposure.

    • lam335 lam335

      There is nothing "privileged" about being compelled to leave your home and your job because of a disaster that is now acknowledged to be attributable to human corruption and incompetence. I think every person should have fled Fukushima–and the government should have helped them all to do so, instead of encouraging them to stay (and eat the local produce).

      No matter how poor anyone might have been, they could at least have gotten in a car or on a bus and travelled to the farthest point on the other end of the island. I suspect the problem was less a lack of resources than 1.) a lack of accurate (and honest) information and 2.) the ridiculous social pressure to stay in the area or be labelled "un-Japanese" for leaving.

      I praise those who thought critically about the situation enough to see the true nature of the unfolding events and spare themselves and their families any more exposure than they inevitably got in the initial hours and days. I sympathize with the families that were torn apart as the mothers (wisely) took their children elsewhere while the fathers remained in the area for work-related reasons. But they were right to get out of there. And it is an appalling injustice if mortgages, etc., cause some to feel that they cannot move away from the area. Their homes and communities will never be the same again, yet they are not being justly compensated for the irreparable, if invisible, damage wrought by TEPCO's corruption and greed.

  • ShutItAllDown

    Good to know they were at least checking the air filters.

    Bad to know (but not surpirising) the information has been suppressed all this time.

    • Radio VicFromOregon

      I believe that the checking of air filters has been a private voluntary research project and not a government sponsored endeavor. Arnie has kept updated from these people as the findings come in. He, along with the researchers, then share what data they have as it has been analyzed and made available for peer review and criticism.

  • Ron

    My wife and daughter flew out of LAX to Singapore in April of last year. I was concerned because of the possible route of the plane. So I watched with an online flight tracker. Their plane flew DIRECTLY OVER THE TOP OF FUKUSHIMA. It was good as intentional.

    I was steamed and called the airline's Singapore office and asked them why they did it. Among the excuses I heard was that there was no danger, radiation is not that bad for you. I kept calling trying to get ahold of management but they did not have a publicly available number. I asked those I talked to to please go behind the plume on the return flight.

    Yeah right. They took the exact same route on the way back. They obviously could not have cared less.

    The airline, by the way, was Cathay Pacific.

    • richard richard

      next they'll be calling you a terrorist


      strange as it may seem Ron, your suspicion that "It was good as intentional." to fly directly over Fukushima, may have been done to minimize exposure. Unless you're ascending or descending, overflights are done at thousands of feet above the flight path. The plume would've been low and most concentrated below a flight path that passed over Japan. As you move further away from the source of the plume, convection currents begin the process of dispersion into the upper-atmosphere. The only-other time this phenomena may not be applicable is during volcano eruptions or thermonuclear detonations; which initially eject material under explosive force and intense heat, into the atmosphere above it's immediate location. As to the one plant that did explode: it's not known how high the ejected material was immediately driven up-over this plant's location. From the images so far released, this explosion does not appear to have-had the force to make it into the upper-atmosphere, immediately above the NPP. If you've had the chance to review the modeled-data of these releases, you'll find the bulk of the radiation (from both explosion and ongoing meltdowns) gradually made its way into the upper-atmosphere and were carried away throughout the entire northern hemisphere. Your flight path may have been chosen as means of strategic protection…

      • Ron

        Thanks Aftershock, and sorry for the late reply.

        I remember reading from this site not long after the disaster that radiation had been detected at altitude, I think it was 3 or 5 miles above the plant. I believe that that would be within the flight path.

        Since it drifted east I think it would have been much better to fly behind it. I think they didn't for the reasons that sickputer gave just below.

        Another thing, according to a map on this site a couple of days ago the main plume drifted northeast. That is also the path taken by the airline and others from LAX. Though a few do fly directly in a more or less straight line from LAX to Hong Kong the majority I saw on that flight tracker went up coast then across the Bering Straits then down the Russian and Chinese coasts. Presumably this is to make it easier to locate a plane in case of crash. Ironically, this path would have to use up a lot more fuel than a direct flight. And it would take them right through the path of the plume.

        When I said "as good as intentional" I didn't mean that literally as m a x l i says. I mean that had they been trying to contaminate people their path might not have been much different.


          no problem with the 'late' response Ron; more timely than most who aren't kind enough to even bother reciprocating. Reminds me of the research I'd do for others on a site I used to produce. I'd spend hours researching answers for some very nuanced questions, only to be lucky if I got a thank you.

          As to the issue of overflights: when someone claims the plume from the explosion went five miles up-into the atmosphere, you have to question if they meant above the facility or again, up-into the atmosphere. We know it's eventually going to mingle with the prevailing winds and do so. But an explosion that might've immediately carried the contaminants straight up would've also leveled the surrounding area for miles. Just keep in mind the arching effect of the plume, as it both 'dissipates' in density and rises at it travels away from the source.

          I should add, I wouldn't put it past someone to use commercial flights as means of gathering data. It is conceivable that they'd make such decisions if they needed to. So, for all the paranoia that some might attribute to your claim, it may be correct…

          • Ron

            Thanks again Aftershock. I certainly hope that you are right that prevailing winds would have blown the bad air away below the flight of the plane. I don't want to think otherwise. 'Course there is this article itself saying that airflights of planes on those routes came back with contaminated air filters.

            They both took PI before their flights, but nothing for anything else.

            Anyway, I appreciate your reasonable approach. Too many people seem to like to pounce and leave others feeling hopeless.


              more than welcome Ron. The plume itself eventually disperses into a 'gossamer'. At this point, there's no way to avoid it when passing through the jet-streams.

              Most of us are prone to emphasis as means of reinforcement. This is due more to the lack of concrete information, which in-turn lends itself to speculative fear; something that's not unjustified, given the danger we're now facing…

    • Anthony Anthony

      Horrible. More shitty customer service with a dangerous flavor.

  • Ron

    By the way, I checked on and off over the next month or so after their flight and CP never varied their flight path. Smack dab over the top of Fukushima. And they weren't the only airline doing this either.

    To this day my guess is that all the airlines that took that route before the accident are still taking that exact same route every single day.

    • Sickputer

      Not surprising they don't care to alter their route just because of deadly plumes of Fukushima radiation. That trip west against the prevailing easterly wind currents sucks down a lot more jet fuel. So regardless of whether they stopover in Hong Kong or fly direct, it is really an uncommon feat for an airline to fly that far. Pretty much takes a near full load of fuel even with the reduced seating plan. The Boeing 777 with auxiliary fuel tanks or the Airbus 340 are probably what they use.

      I know a little about airline attitudes because I worked briefly for Transworld Airlines in 1983. Even then the price of jetfuel at $1.50 a gallon was too expensive to fill up the tank (weight of extra fuel was too costly to do that). Before October 1973, jetliner fuel (and car gasoline) was anywhere from 15 cents to 25 cents a gallon. Airlines didn't worry so much the weight of fuel and routinely filled tanks, especially for overseas flights.

      The Yom Kippur war and the Arab Oil Embargo quickly changed the price of cheap fuel forever. Airlines loaded just enough fuel to get from point A to B with a 15% safety margin added. Some planes ended up running out of fuel during emergencies. The only silver lining was that when the airliners crashed there wasn't much fire. But they don't glide very well…just rocket space planes with wings.

      I bet they worry much more about fuel consumption on those 18.5 hour flights to Malaysia than they do on avoiding nuclear radiation.

    • m a x l i

      @Ron, here the question comes to mind, if they took that route before 3/11 at all, or if there may be a wicked plan for people of all countries to "share the pain of Fukushima" by intentionally overflying that exact spot now. I know, this sounds far-fetched and outlandish, but the idea to truck radioactive debris to incinerators in all remote corners of a country, to give the largest number of people possible their "fair" share of the contamination, sounds completely nuts, too.

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    Radiation in airplanes, and not because of a quake or tsunami. but, because of nuclear plants. And the radiation is in the jet stream now.

  • ForwardAssist ForwardAssist


  • jackassrig

    I still hold an airframe/powerplant license from the FAA. Years back I worked as a mechanic on 737's doing heavy D checks. I don't know of any airfilters on an airplane. Like I said I haven't worked on a airplane in years so much has slipped away. If anyone knows about filters on planes, I would sure like to know for my own education. The air that is pumped into the cabin comes off of the second or third stage of the compressor on the engine. The planes do have air conditioning but it does not use freon. If memory serves me, I believe it is a air type cycle with the intake on the belly of the plane.

  • jackassrig

    Thanks PavewayIII. I've been out of it for a while.

  • dharmasyd dharmasyd

    The level of relevant, real knowledge & data now on this site is great. Thank you all for your expertise and willingness to research and fact check. I have found this site to be much more reliable than it was in our 'early-panicing-days.'

  • Ganxet Ganxet

    can someone tell me if this radiation could also be detected in other filters? For example those of the BTS (Base cellular transciever station)?
    we should workers telecommunications multinationals must take special measures to proceed to change them?
    what kind of contaminants are in these filters, many of them had been filtering air for more than 1 year and filtered air 24h/7d. If done at the global level, could see were NPP byproducts are.

    Just a thought.

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

    Radiation, Smokers And Tobacco; What Is The Danger? via A Green Road

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