Spain asks US to clean up site of 1966 nuclear accident

Streaming HUBMarch 6, 2023

Spain said Monday it has asked the United States to begin a process to remove radioactively contaminated soil after four American hydrogen bombs were dropped near a southern Spanish village nearly 60 years ago.

None of the bombs exploded, but the plutonium-filled detonators on two exploded, spreading several pounds of the highly radioactive plutonium 239 over the landscape around Palomares.

The Foreign Ministry said that no further details will be given on the petition until there is an official response from the US.

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Spain and the US signed a statement of intent in 2015 to negotiate a binding agreement to further restore and clean up the Palomares site and arrange for the disposal of the contaminated soil at a suitable site in the US but for a number of reasons never No agreement has been signed either.

These bombs fell on January 17, 1966, when an American B-52 bomber and a refueling plane collided with each other, killing seven of the 11 crew members. There was no death on the ground.

On January 17, 1966, an accident caused by a US Air Force B-52 nuclear bomber dropped four hydrogen bombs on Palomares, Spain.

On January 17, 1966, an accident caused by a US Air Force B-52 nuclear bomber dropped four hydrogen bombs on Palomares, Spain. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone Via Getty Images)

The accident occurred during the height of the Cold War when it was US policy to keep nuclear-armed warplanes constantly in the air near the Soviet border.

The 2015 statement said that immediately after the accident the two countries set out to secure the area, remove contaminated soil and disinfect the land. It said they have been monitoring and analyzing contamination levels since then.

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Spanish state news agency EFE said about 1.76 million cubic feet of land had been affected on 44 plots. Since then the government has been collecting rent from the owners to keep the land safe and is now expected to confiscate it.

Major Spanish daily El Pais, which published the story on the petition on Monday, said the request was submitted several months ago and so far the US response has been positive.

The paper said Spain was pushing for a quick agreement as the country will hold general elections in December.

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