Palomares still waiting for comprehensive clean up following B-52G incident

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COMPROMIS senator Carlos Mulet pointed out in parliament recently that the US has never kept promise to rid Palomares of plutonium 239 contamination.

“What steps has the Spanish government taken to persuade the US government to meet its obligations?” Mulet wanted to know.

He was referring to the 2015 agreement between both countries whereby the US undertook to clear the area of all nuclear residue.

This was necessary following the 1966 “incident” when a B-52G Air Force bomber collided in mid-air with a KC-135 tanker while refuelling.

All four aboard the tanker were killed and three of the B-52G’s crew of seven died when the aircraft broke apart.

The disaster did not end there, as the B-52G was carrying four hydrogen bombs.

Three were found near Palomares on the outskirts of Cuevas del Almanzora where the non-nuclear explosives in two of the bombs had detonated on impact.

They contaminated an area covering two square kilometres with plutonium 239.  The fourth bomb was found at sea, 10 weeks later.

Answering Mulet in an official written reply, the government explained that Spain has not renounced coming to an understanding with the US over Palomares.

Both finally reached agreement five years ago, 50 years after the incident.

“The Foreign Ministry maintains its objective of reaching a legally binding agreement permitting a comprehensive rehabilitation of the zone,” the government reply continued.

The Ministry had also made clear to the US that Spain has not renounced this objective, it added.

If Spain has made little progress, there have been advances on the other side of the Atlantic.

The courts there decided that the US soldiers and airmen who were called in to clear up the Palomares aftermath were entitled to make compensation claims after “dozens” were later diagnosed with cancer and other ailments linked to radiation poisoning.


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Linda Hall

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