Palomares nuclear bomb clean-up delay

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SHORTLY before England won the World Cup for the first and only time in 1966, a US Air Force bomber crashed in the region of Palomares, Almeria.

The accident resulted in four hydrogen bombs being dropped over the area. Three of the bombs were found near the fishing village of Palomares.

The non-nuclear explosives in two of the devices detonated, resulting in the contamination of a two-square-kilometre area with plutonium. The fourth bomb fell into the sea and was recovered more than two months afterwards.

The bombs were not primed to explode and so a major disaster was not something that could have resulted from the accident. The incident was quickly covered up by the US Air force but later revealed by two brothers. Although the area is fenced off, and has been for fifty years, some of the area gas been farmed over the years, although the zone is still toxic.

Half-a-century later, on October 19, 2015, Spain and Washington signed an agreement paving the way for the US to transport almost 50,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil back to the USA. At a price of 640 million euros, the project requires an international treaty that has yet to be ratified by Spain’s Congress.

Last week, James Costos, the US ambassador to Spain since 2013, resigned.  After the US Senate approves a Donald Trump-appointed successor, a process that could take several months, among the priorities on the new incumbents desk will be a renegotiation on how to clean up tons of contaminated soil in Palomares (Almería), the site of a 1966

The original agreement was to finish the deal by December 31, 2015, however Spain’s two inconclusive elections resulted in a ten-month political stalemate that was only resolved in November, 2016. On November 8, four days after Rajoy took office at the head of a minority government, Donald Trump won the US elections and since the agreement was not legally binding it’s still not known how Trump will view the agreement on the Palomares clean-up.

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