A report from the Government of the United States to the Senate of that country recognized that the actions of the North American country during the Cold War caused radioactive contamination in at least three countries, one of which was Spain. The district of Palomares (Almería) “continues to suffer the effects” of “residual contamination” since four bombs carried by a B-52 fell on its land, opening two of them and releasing nine kilo of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The other two enclaves affected by these activities are the Marshall Islands and Greenland.
Half a century of secrets and lies in Palomares
The remaining pollution in Palomares “exceeds the level” of European regulations, as the United States now admits, without encouraging or recommending the adoption of any “executive measure” despite the fact that in 2015 the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, signed a declaration of intent for the cleanup of Palomares.
The US Government Accountability Office admits that little can be done without your support. “Help” from the United States is “important” for Spain to solve the “problem.” Spain should “negotiate a binding agreement with the US” so that the North American country will manage the custody of the contaminated soil for its elimination, since it does not have the necessary facilities, the document says. , recalling the negotiations. that the American President, Joe Biden, and the Spaniard, Pedro Sánchez, continue in May 2023, about their departure has not been known since then.
The report, presented by ABC and consulted by elDiario.es Andalucía, also shows that the remediation activities at this site have been stopped while Spain “continues negotiations with the hope of reaching a final binding agreement in the United States” and stressed that the European Commission “supports” Spain’s plan to “take the contaminated soil and deliver it to the US.”
This medium published that Spain ignored in 2022 the obligation to send a report to the European Commission on the progress of the rehabilitation plan, warning, in an undated or unsigned document, that the Commission has not been given power to evaluate the progress of the Palomares rehabilitation plan application.
At least 103 hectares containing radioactive waste
The rehabilitation plan itself (which remains secret, but partially revealed by a decision of the National Court) states that between 2030 and 2033 the isotope of americium (241 Am) will reach its maximum radiological activity, as a result of the disintegration of plutonium isotopes. Americium emits gamma-type radiation that poses health risks greater than the alpha-type radiation of plutonium 241, which has so far prevailed. In some areas, population exposure can exceed 5 mSv per year.
The report made public today, dated January 31, assures that the United States and Spain “cleaned up most of the radioactive material” and has been monitoring the rest since then. That was Operation Broken Arrow. The truth is that in Palomares there are at least 103 hectares of radioactive waste that the Americans buried between 25 and 30 centimeters deep before leaving the area. Some areas where the wind carried plutonium particles, such as the Sierra de Almagrera, were not touched. The Americans left after studying the effects of radioactivity on the residents of Palomares in the “Indalo Project”, which had been hidden for years.
For many years, Ecologistas en Acción has been fighting in court to achieve the commitment of the Spanish administration to clear these lands, regardless of future agreements with the United States. They did not achieve this, despite the fact that there has been a preliminary rehabilitation plan since 2010. For Spain, its effective application depends on the collaboration of the United States. The Supreme Court confirmed in 2022 the refusal to dedicate the cleanup to the Nuclear Safety Council.
The potential impact “appears to be very small”
The United States report, made between March 2020 and January 2024, analyzes how “changing conditions may affect the future management of radioactive contamination” and concludes that, in Palomares, if where radioactivity has persisted since it was recorded in 1966 The plane crash, “economy. growth” along with the “review of radiation safety regulations” in the European Union forced “improvement of land use restrictions” and a ” more” rehabilitation plan.
It says that, even in the following years, the radiological surveillance and sampling activities carried out by Ciemat “are considered sufficient to adequately maintain the remaining contamination, especially due to the limited agricultural and urban activity in the area”, there were “significant changes” in the 1980s and 1990s “for its agricultural and urban development.”
The report claims that the contamination left behind at Palomares is greater than the United States first thought. Only the “reevaluation” carried out between 1998 and 2002, when the real estate boom threatened to remove tons of radioactive earth, led to the discovery that the remaining contamination was “greater than originally estimated,” which forced to ban land. use and, finally, the expropriation of different spaces. However, it concluded that the “potential” radiological impact on the public “appears to be very small.”
Currently, the radioactive land is fenced off, although environmentalists have reported on several occasions that safety limits have been exceeded outside the fence as well.