Madrid adopts tougher tone on Palomares nuclear cleanup

Spanish government demands US assistance to deal with Almería bomb site

The Spanish government is demanding that the United States address the cleanup of Palomares and the transfer of any remaining plutonium "without further ado." The request was filed on December 21 by the Foreign Ministry in response to a November 16 note from the US government declining any assistance at the present time.

The US Air Force accidentally dropped four nuclear bombs over this spot in Almería in 1966, when two of its planes collided in midair. Although the bombs did not go off, two of them released part of their charge, and 50,000 cubic meters of land remain contaminated with plutonium.

Spanish authorities last summer asked the US to take away the radioactive earth, since Spain lacks proper storage facilities. The cleanup would have an estimated cost of 31 million euros, and Madrid was expecting Washington to foot half of the bill, as well as provide technical assistance.

Last November, the US Embassy in Madrid confirmed that the government wanted further studies to be conducted in the area, prompting the December request from Madrid, which stresses that existing studies are enough to justify an immediate cleanup in order to allow residents to use the land.

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