Palomares bombs: Spain waits for US to finish nuclear clean-up via BBC News

On a sunny morning in 1966 two US Air Force planes collided and dropped four nuclear bombs near the village of Palomares in southern Spain. There was no nuclear blast, but plutonium was scattered over a wide area – and Spain is now asking the US to finish the clean-up.

The US government calls nukes that go astray “Broken Arrows” and on 17 January 1966, Palomares got four of them.

Overhead, at 31,000ft, an American B-52G bomber collided with a KC-135 tanker plane during routine air-to-air refuelling and broke apart. Three of the bomber’s H-bombs landed in or around Palomares, the fourth landed about five miles offshore in the Mediterranean.

Manolo Gonzalez says he was standing outside when he heard a tremendous explosion.

“I looked up and saw this huge ball of fire, falling through the sky,” he says. “The two planes were breaking into pieces.”


As the clean-up got under way, the US and Spanish governments set out to convince the world there was no danger. US Ambassador Biddle Duke even came down from Madrid for a swim, in front of TV cameras.

When asked by a reporter on the scene if he’d detected any radioactivity in the water, Duke replied with a laugh: “If this is radioactivity, I love it!”

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