Friday, 26 October 2012

Broken Arrows

I guess its surprising how many things, which aren't conspiracies, are still secrets. The reason, the narrative of our lives moves on, the press lose interest, and the story dies. So it only rang a vague bell when I read a story about 4 nuclear weapon carrying war-planes colliding over Spain in the 1960's.

Broken Arrows - Palomares 1966

By some miracle only 7 US airman were killed, and the nuclear bombs didn't explode (they weren't armed) ....... but the 'nuclear' wreckage was scattered wide and far, with three of the bomber's H-bombs landing in or around Palomares, the fourth landed about five miles offshore in the Mediterranean ... a reporting ban was assisted by the fact that Spain was so poor in 1966, that there was only one telephone in Palomares in 1966, and no running water, so a recovery operation remained secret.

The weapon from the sea bed was recovered. One of the other three was undamaged (its safety parachute had opened as designed) but two more fell 31,000 ft to the earth and split open, scattering waste in the form of radioactive dust over a largish area.

"What they decided to do was remove the contaminated dirt from the most contaminated areas," says science writer Barbara Moran, author of 'The Day We Lost the H-Bomb'. They literally scraped up the first three inches of topsoil, sealed it in barrels, and shipped it to a storage facility back in the US .... but they missed bits. And although there has been no evidence that the food or water supplies were ever contaminated (checks are made very year), the locals want the US to come back and do a proper job of finishing the clean up.

No one really knows how much plutonium was unrecoverable, as the US never admitted how much was lost, but there is still some out there, and locals want rid of it. A local barman summed it up, "Every time the story hits the media, it hurts tourism," he said. "A lot of people don't want to come here because they think the quality of life must be low, that cancer rates are higher, when that's not the case at all." ... discussions are apparently under way to get the final clean up completed.

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