Spain wants the United States to finish cleaning up plutonium that contaminated land near Palomares, a fishing village in southeastern Spain, when an American bomber crashed in the area 46 years ago.
The issue repeatedly comes up at high-level meetings between Spanish and American diplomats, reported La Voz de Galicia newspaper.
Representatives from the U.S. Energy Department visited the village last year to assess the scope of the contamination, said El País, Spain’s largest newspaper. To Spanish officials, the visit suggested the U.S. would be providing funds and expertise for a cleanup.
But now the Spaniards fear Washington is dragging its feet, El País reported. U.S. officials still haven’t decided what to do about the cleanup. “We are waiting for a decision to be made so that we can remove the last traces for good,” a spokesperson for Spain’s Center for Energy, Environment and Technology Research, or CIEMAT, told Latitude News.
Four years ago, CIEMAT discovered that 100 acres of land near the village contained more than a pound of plutonium stemming from a 1966 crash of an American B-52 that was carrying four hydrogen bombs.
The B-52 had collided with a tanker as it refueled in mid-air over Spain and broke apart. One bomb fell into the sea and later was recovered, intact, with the help of a local fisherman.
But two of the other three bombs that fell near Palomares detonated on impact, contaminating around 500 acres with plutonium. U.S. soldiers appeared within hours and moved an estimated 1,400 tons of soil and vegetation to South Carolina.
Since then, the U.S. Energy Department and CIEMAT have monitored radiation levels in the area and periodically examined Palomares residents. To date, no one has been affected by the radiation, the CIEMAT spokesperson said.