Spain sign deal with US over clean-up following 1966 Palomares nuclear crash

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© Marshall Astor, Wikipedia
Casings of Palomares bombs

On Monday October 19 Spain and the US finalised a deal regarding the clean-up of soil in Palomares, Almeria, almost 50 years after a US air force B-52 bomber carrying nuclear weapons crashed in the area.

The radioactive spillage resulting from the crash came from four nuclear bombs on the aircraft. The soil is expected to be taken out of Spain and shipped to a prepared site in Nevada in which nuclear bomb tests were held in the 1950s.

The nations announced the agreement during US Secretary of State John Kerry´s official visit to Spain. Kerry arrived in Madrid on Sunday and was greeted by Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, the Spanish Foreign Minister.

Kerry was given a Spanish guitar which he indicated his appreciation for before declining the Spanish official´s invitation to sing. Garcia Margallo was then presented with a gift from America, a clock that Kerry described as a rare and “special piece”.

Garcia Margallo told news agency Efe that the meeting reflected the “excellent” state of relations between the two nations. Kerry´s earlier planned visit to Spain in May 31 was undone by a biking accident in Switzerland which saw the meeting postponed to October.

The Palomares crash was the most serious incident of the time and resulted in the deaths of seven of the 11 crew members. The hydrogen bombs on board were more powerful than those which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the 1990s new tests showed high levels of a type of plutonium and an estimated 50,000 cubic metres of earth were found to be still contaminated. The Spanish Government moved to appropriate the land in 2003 to ensure it wouldn´t be used.

Kerry and Garcia Margallo told reporters that the process would begin soon but did not give exact details.

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