Thursday 29 September 2016

Spain, US sign Palomares nuclear accident clean-up deal

Published 19/10/2015 | 18:06

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo sign the agreement. (AP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo sign the agreement. (AP)

Spain and the United States have signed a deal to discuss the clean-up and removal of land contaminated with radioactivity after a mid-air collision in 1966 dumped four US hydrogen bombs near the southern Spanish village of Palomares.

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Under a statement of intent signed by Spain's foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the two countries will negotiate a binding agreement to further restore and clear up the Palomares site and arrange for the disposal of the contaminated soil at an appropriate site in the United States.

In a joint press conference in Madrid, Mr Margallo said the process would begin soon.

The bombs were released on January 17 1966, when a US B-52 bomber and a refuelling plane crashed into each other during a routine refuelling operation, killing seven of 11 crew members. There were no fatalities on the ground.

None of the bombs exploded, but the plutonium-filled detonators on two went off, strewing highly radioactive plutonium 239 across the landscape around the south-eastern town.

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

The statement said that immediately following the accident both countries set about securing the area, removing contaminated soil and decontaminating the land. It said that they have since been monitoring and analysing contamination levels.

Press Association

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