Radioactive waste of 1966 nuclear accident found

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The leftover radioactive material was left after two US air force planes collided, spilling their nuclear payloads.

10 April 2008

MADRID - Two ditches containing radioactive material dug 42 years ago during the clean-up operation  after two US air force planes collided midair spilling their nuclear payloads over southern Spain have been found, according to Teresa Mendizábal of the government-run environmental studies agency Ciemat.

"Two ditches have appeared, each 1,000 cubic metres in size, which have radioactive material that the US army left behind at the last moment and which appear in confidential reports of the [US] Department of Energy," said Mendizábal.

One bomb fell in Palomares, Almería province, the other in the sea.

The US army said then that it had cleaned up the sites, claiming to have shipped 1.6 million tons of radioactive soil to the United States. Mendizábal said that while hundreds of US soldiers camped at the sites during the clean-up operation, they had left nuclear waste.

Even though it is still too early to know what kind of toxic waste lies in these trenches, Ciemat believes that much of the metallic material contains radioactive plutonium, which has a half-life of thousands of years.

Mendizábal explained that there is no place in Spain where the nuclear waste can be stored. Spanish authorities have turned to the United States to transport and store the toxic waste.

[El Pais / Spain]

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