FIFTY-FIVE years ago, 200 hectares of Palomares land were contaminated with radioactive plutonium.
This was the fallout from a disastrous 1966 nuclear incident when four hydrogen bombs were released during a mid-air collision between a US B-52 bomber and a tanker refuelling aircraft.
Three bombs fell on Palomares and non-nuclear explosives in two of them detonated upon impact, releasing plutonium. The US army decontaminated some land but 40 hectares remain untreated more than five decades later.
Hopes that the Spanish government would finally intervene were dashed last July after the National High Court ruled rejected Ecologistas en Accion’s claims that Spain’s Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) was legally obliged to deal with Palomares’ 50,000 cubic metres of radioactive soil.
Nevertheless, the National High Court has accepted a further appeal from Jose Ignacio Domingez, the lawyer representing Ecologistas en Accion and both parties are due to meet before Supreme Court judge Juan Carlos Fernandez de Aguirre within 30 days.
There are no legal precedents, neither for this situation nor whether it was within the CSN’s remit to carry out out the decontamination, Ecologistas en Accion maintained.
“The Palomares case is unique,” Ecologistas said, also pointing out that 55 years after the incident, contamination levels still exceed permitted levels.