Spain Program: Palomares, Spain
In 1966, two U.S. Air Force planes collided during a midair refueling near the coast of
Palomares, Spain. One nuclear weapon fell into the sea and two broke up on the ground.
The nonnuclear detonations of two of the weapons dispersed plutonium across
steep and rugged agricultural areas. The U.S. Department of Defense remediated the
site within weeks of the accident. Since that time, the Department of Energy (DOE) and
its predecessor Agencies have funded a portion of the costs of an environmental
monitoring research program of the area and medical surveillance of the residents.
DOE also provides scientific and technical assistance.
In the aftermath of the accident, a formal cooperative research program was initiated under the Hall-Otero Agreement of 1966. The agreement is between DOE and the Kingdom of Spain. The major goals of this agreement are to:
- Evaluate the associated radiological impact;
- Update radiological inventories for further land recovery; and
- Improve knowledge on the environmental behavior
of transuranic elements in an arid rural environment.
In 1997, DOE agreed to a new program with Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas,
Medioambientales y Technológicas (CIEMAT) to continue the work begun under the
Hall-Otero Agreement. CIEMAT is DOE's counterpart in the Kingdom of Spain. The
agreement acknowledges that CIEMAT has primary responsibility and that DOE's role is
supportive in nature with technical advice and partial funding of the research activities.
In 2005, DOE and CIEMAT agreed to develop a plan for a new radiation survey of
Palomares' residual contaminated zones and to prepare a final radiological
management plan for these zones. In 2007, the two parties formally agreed to
cooperate completing the new radiological survey of affected areas at the Palomares
accident site by the end of 2008. The survey will form the basis for recommending any
additional final remedial actions. DOE's cost-sharing arrangement with the Kingdom of
Spain, begun in 1966, ended in FY 2008. The final radiological survey was completed in
2009 and received a positive review by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Plans
for final remediation are in preparation in 2010.
Since 1966, approximately 150 residents of Palomares receive complete physical
examinations and radio-bioassays of plutonium collected in urine each year. The study,
so far, involves a total of 1,029 people who received more than 4,000 medical
examinations and measurements for residual plutonium deposited within their bodies.
CIEMAT contact for Palomares project information:
Ms. Isabel Redondo
Director, Unity of Communication
and Public Relations
Phone: +34 913466355
Fax: + 34 913466740
Carlos Sancho Llerandi
Chief of Unit of Recovery of Radiologically
Avenida Complutense, 22 28040, Madrid, Spain
Tel: +34 913466258
Fax: +34 913466718
Gerald R. Petersen
Office of Health and Safety
U.S. Department of Energy
Phone: (301) 903-2340
Fax: (301) 903-1413
Link to CIEMAT: