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Cable sobre la visita a España del secretario adjunto del Departamento de Energía

En 2006 la Embajada en Madrid informa de la visita a España de John Shaw, secretario adjunto del Departamento de Energía, en el que se informa de que este "no se comprometió formalmente a dar financiación"

ID: 84732
Date: 2006-11-07 16:49:00
Origin: 06MADRID2853
Source: Embassy Madrid
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Dunno:
Destination: VZCZCXRO2284
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RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 0042
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 MADRID 002853

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/WE, OES/STC, AND EB/ESC/IEC; DOE FOR DR.
PATRICIA WORTHINGTON AND MOHANDAS BHAT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PARM, MNUC, SENV
SUBJECT: SPAIN AND U.S. COOPERATING TO REMEDIATE RADIATION
CONTAMINATION FROM 1966 NUCLEAR ACCIDENT

MADRID 00002853 001.2 OF 005


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The U.S., through the Department of Energy (DOE),
is closely cooperating with Spanish counterparts to address
radiation contamination left in southern Spain after a U.S.
Air Force (USAF) nuclear accident 40 years ago. What could
have turned into a public relations nightmare has actually
evolved into almost a good news story highlighting the close
cooperation between two Allies. DOE is helping Spain to
prepare the first comprehensive study of remaining radiation
contamination and will then enter into discussions with GOS
entities over possible remediation cooperation. DOE action
to date has advanced USG policy interests vis-a-vis Spain and
should be commended. END SUMMARY.

---------------------------------------
INTRODUCTION - HISTORY OF PALOMARES 101
---------------------------------------

2. (U) On January 17, 1966, a USAF nuclear-armed B-52
collided with a USAF tanker aircraft during a refueling
operation in the air above the Andalucian coastline between
the cities of Almeria and Murcia. The non-nuclear detonation
of two of the four weapons that fell to the ground resulted
in the dispersal of plutonium contamination across 558 acres
of Spanish coastline near the village of Palomares. DOD,
working with Spanish authorities, handled the initial U.S.
remediation efforts, scraping off a 1.6 million ton layer of
the contaminated soil (generally to the depth of about 5
centimeters) and shipping it back to the U.S., where it was
buried on the grounds of the DOE Savannah River Site in
Georgia. The area, which was sparsely populated at the time
of the accident, was considered remediated to then extant
standards.

3. (U) Later in 1966, DOD turned the "Palomares Program"
over to DOE. The legal basis for DOE's involvement was the
"Hall-Otero" agreement, signed on February 25, 1966 by the
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Assistant General Manager for
International Activities John A. Hall and the Spanish
President of the Nuclear Energy Board Jose Maria Otero
Navascues. It is important to note that while this agreement
committed DOE to funding a research project to "investigate
various health and safety aspects of fissionable materials
when released into a rural agricultural environment," it did
not/not commit DOE to fund any radiation remediation
activity. Instead DOE agreed to "provide support in the form
of technical assistance and advice and specialized equipment
and materials not readily available to the Board."

4. (U) Since 1966, DOE has funded (generally about USD
300,000 a year) GOS efforts to monitor the area and track the
health of local inhabitants. The GOS, partially due to an
emerging real estate boom along the entire Spanish coast that
was quickly turning Palomares into a community densely packed
with British retirees, decided in 2001 to take a new set of
measurements to determine the extent of remaining radiation
contamination near Palomares. The results led the GOS to
believe that the remaining contamination might/might be more
serious than heretofore believed.

-----------------------------
BOTH SIDES "REOPEN" PALOMARES
-----------------------------

5. (SBU) Just as the GOS was "reopening" Palomares via
stepped-up monitoring, DOE was coming to the conclusion that
after almost forty years of U.S. support for post-accident
monitoring, it was time to consider winding down its
Palomares Program. Thus, after a several decade long period

MADRID 00002853 002.2 OF 005


of hibernation, Palomares returned to the radar screens of
both sides (albeit for different reasons).

6. (SBU) Following the 2004 Spanish national elections, the
eminent Spanish nuclear physicist Juan Antonio Rubio was
asked to return from Geneva, where he was working at CERN, to
take charge of the Education and Science Ministry's Center
for Energy, Environment and Technology Investigation
(CIEMAT). CIEMAT has the GOS lead on Palomares. In
mid-2005, then DOE Assistant Secretary for Environment,
Safety, and Health John Shaw decided to visit CIEMAT and
Palomares before taking action on a recommendation to
terminate DOE's Palomares program. Shaw's September 2005
encounter with Rubio opened a new era in the Palomares
Program.

-----------------
TWO PEAS IN A POD
-----------------

7. (SBU) Juan Antonio Rubio quickly turned CIEMAT upside
down and reinvigorated a somewhat moribund institution. He
came to the conclusion that the GOS' Palomares Project had
turned into a sort of jobs program, with staff prepared to
continue monitoring forever. Rubio, however, sought closure
and seized upon the recent data suggesting the contamination
might be more serious than previously expected to bolster his
bureaucratic case. He decided that he would make "final
cleanup" of Palomares one of his major priorities during his
tenure as CIEMAT Director General.

8. (SBU) When then DOE A/S John Shaw arrived in Madrid in
September 2005 seeking his own form of closure on Palomares,
he quickly realized that his audacious and energetic Spanish
counterpart also wanted to wind down Palomares, albeit via a
final joint clean up vice a unilateral DOE termination of its
involvement.

----------------
A DEAL IS STRUCK
----------------

9. (SBU) Shaw's September 2005 visit to Palomares charted a
new course. Shaw determined that the intensive development
of this previously underpopulated, rural (and potentially
contaminated) backwater required renewed DOE assistance and
that DOE could not walk away from Palomares.

10. (SBU) During and following Shaw's visit, a deal was cut
with Rubio and CIEMAT. DOE would help pay for (and provide
technical assistance to) a CIEMAT effort to develop a
world-class radiological map detailing the extent and nature
of the remaining radiation contamination at Palomares. Once
the map revealed the nature of the problem, the two sides
would then negotiate a "final clean up" plan. Shaw did not
formally commit to DOE funding of any eventual clean up
effort, but it was implicit that DOE would stay on the scene
in one way or another until Palomares was clean. In return,
Shaw received Rubio's commitment of full GOS support for DOE
terminating the Palomares Program following final clean up.
The DOE commitment to help pay for CIEMAT'S radiological map
was enshrined in an MOU signed by Shaw and Rubio in February,
2006 (just prior to Shaw's departure from government
service).

-----------------------
IRONING OUT THE DETAILS
-----------------------

11. (SBU) Following Shaw's landmark September 2005 visit,
CIEMAT moved into high gear to develop the methodology (and
buy the equipment it would need) to prepare the radiological

MADRID 00002853 003.2 OF 005


map. Meanwhile, in May 2005, DOE dispatched a second
delegation to Madrid/CIEMAT and Palomares led by then Deputy
Assistant Secretary for Health Steve Cary. Cary brought with
him two of the United States' leading experts on radiation
remediation, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
scientists Robin Newmark and Terry Hamilton. This visit
greatly helped CIEMAT to establish its map methodology and
initiated a fruitful conversation on the technical assistance
DOE could offer during the map's preparation.

12. (SBU) DOE experienced a significant reorganization in
early September 2006 and control of the Palomares Program
passed to the Office of International Health Studies. The
Director of this office, Dr. Gerry Petersen, emerged as the
lead DOE official for the Palomares Program. Petersen
decided to travel to Madrid/Palomares during his second week
in his new position. Newmark returned with Petersen. Their
discussions served to reaffirm DOE's post-reorganization
commitment to Palomares and allowed further DOE fine-tuning
of CIEMAT's almost finalized plans for the radiological map.

-------------------------
MONEY AND VISITS ARE NEXT
-------------------------

13. (SBU) CIEMAT has expropriated the most contaminated
lands in Palomares, and will soon fence them off and begin
the sampling that will provide the data for the radiological
map. (Note: CIEMAT has possession of the land, even though
the amount of compensation they have to pay is hung up in the
Spanish court system. End Note) CIEMAT, however, has not
yet finalized their overall cost estimate for the map. DOE
has committed to "share" the cost of the map, but "share" was
not defined in the February 2006 MOU. At the time the MOU
was signed, it was decided that once the DOE "share" was
negotiated, this financial commitment would be delineated in
an annex to the MOU.

14. (SBU) DOE has invited Juan Antonio Rubio to visit
Washington and Lawrence Livermore National laboratory.
Initially the trip was linked to the signing of the annex of
the MOU. But given CIEMAT's delay in developing an overall
map cost estimate, it was decided during Peterson's September
2006 visit that Rubio would be invited to travel to the U.S.
in early 2007 (not withstanding when the financial annex to
the MOU will be signed).

-------------------
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
-------------------

15. (SBU) Once the map is costed out, the DOE cost share
determined, the sampling finished, and the map actually
prepared (perhaps by 2008), the next big step will be to meet
bilaterally to determine what the map reveals about the
extent of remaining radiation contamination, and what needs
to be done to remediate it. This stage is particularly
sensitive, as DOE has made no/no formal commitment to help
fund any possible CIEMAT radiation remediation effort.
However, it is very/very clear that CIEMAT expects that the
USG will agree to help pay for any possible remediation.
Should DOE decide not to fund any such remediation effort,
DOE and the Embassy will have to work closely to develop a
damage control strategy, as the U.S. would be skewered in the
press on this issue (e.g., a good friend and Ally should
clean up its own nuclear mess). Given that the 1966
"Hall-Otero Agreement" did not/not commit DOE to funding
remediation efforts, and the fact that the accident was a
military one, we may want to explore the possibility of U.S.
military funding for any eventual remediation efforts.

16. (SBU) If remediation is addressed in a mutually

MADRID 00002853 004.2 OF 005


satisfactory fashion, CIEMAT, working with local and regional
authorities, is considering opening a museum/study center on
the site of one of the two bomb impact sites. If this comes
to fruition, DOE and DOD/USAF will almost certainly be
contacted to provide exhibition materials. The tentative
concept would be full transparency about the accident, a
monument to bilateral efforts to address it, and a broader
expose of how radiation contamination can be mitigated.

---------------------
EMBASSY MADRID'S ROLE
---------------------

17. (SBU) Embassy Madrid's ESTHOFF has spent a significant
amount of time on Palomares-related issues since the fall of
2004. When first approached by DOE in the fall of 2004,
ESTHOFF urged DOE not to unilaterally terminate its Palomares
Program and to instead come visit and discuss such a
possibility with CIEMAT. ESTHOFF then convinced CIEMAT
Director General Rubio that DOE could be willing the continue
the Palomares Program for a few more years in return for
CIEMAT agreeing to a final program termination date. This
strategy was pursued during the September 2005 visit to
Madrid by then A/S Shaw and then approved in the February
2006 MOU. ESTHOFF planned all three high level DOE visits
(September 2005, May 2006 and September 2006), accompanied
the DOE delegations during all their meetings with CIEMAT in
Madrid, and traveled all three times with DOE down to
Palomares. ESTHOFF also ensured the support of the Mayor of
Palomares and, working with DOE, made sure that the Mayor
received VIP treatment during personal travel to Washington
in late 2005. The Mayor, who could have posed insurmountable
obstacles to bilateral cooperation, is now fully supportive
of DOE/Embassy efforts. In the periods between the DOE
visits, ESTHOFF has helped DOE stay in close and continuous
contact with CIEMAT, nudging the project along whenever it
hit obstacles.

--------------
MEDIA INTEREST
--------------

18. (SBU) Outside an occasional innocuous reference in the
local and (rarely) national press, Palomares generally stayed
out of the news in Spain. This changed following the
September 2006 visit of Palomares Program Leader Dr. Gerry
Petersen. "El Pais," Spain's most prestigious daily
newspaper (which is close to the ruling Socialist Party), got
wind of DOE's agreement to fund map preparation and
approached both DOE and CIEMAT for comment. DOE correctly
referred the paper to CIEMAT which, after consulting with
ESTHOFF, decided to opt for full transparency. The result
was a front page lead story on October 8, followed by an
editorial on October 21. Both were factual, only included
minor inaccuracies, and in general portrayed the bilateral
cooperation in a positive light. Press interest in Palomares
has since increased, but this has not had any negative impact
on bilateral cooperation. Since there is nothing to hide,
and indeed a good story to tell about Allies cooperating
closely, press interest has arguably been a net positive.

-------
COMMENT
-------

19. (SBU) When Palomares is "done," it has the potential to
illustrate how close friends and Allies came together to
finally rid Spain of the legacy of an unfortunate nuclear
accident 40 years ago. What at first glance many would want
to bury, could actually be unearthed and highlighted as an
example of bilateral cooperation in an non-traditional area.
Should the remediation issue be addressed in a mutually

MADRID 00002853 005.2 OF 005


satisfactory way, Embassy Madrid would hope that the State
Department, DOD/USAF and DOE, would work closely together
with CIEMAT and local and regional authorities on their
efforts to "memorialize" the accident via a museum/study
center.

20. (U) This cable was cleared by DOE.
AGUIRRE