AGREEMENT between Washington and Madrid over Palomares’ contaminated soil was long-delayed but welcome.
Almost 50 years after four thermonuclear bombs fell from a US Air Force plane following a mid-air collision over Palomares, Washington agreed to remove 50,000 cubic metres of still-contaminated soil. This will eventually be stored at the Nevada National Security Site.
There was more good news when landowners learnt that plots cordoned-off after the 1966 incident will be returned to them. Then came the announcement that the €640 million cost of the operation will have to be shared between Spain and the US.
An international treaty must first be ratified by the Spanish parliament and with general elections on December 20 this will be delayed until the New Year at the earliest. A 100-kilometre road will be built between Palomares and the port of Cartagena (Murcia) so that the soil can be shipped to the US. The authorities will also have to take out civil liability insurance to cover possible accidents between Palomares and Cartagena port.
The entire procedure could take two years, government sources revealed. An end to Palomares’ problem is undeniably in sight – but the wait isn’t over yet.