Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2021
A proposed federal law would see over 1,600 veterans exposed to plutonium dust while responding to a 1966 US nuclear weapons disaster in Palomares, Spain become eligible for VA benefits and health care. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Representative Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., introduced the Palomares Veterans Act April 15 to remove barriers to benefits and compensation for the vets who responded to the 1966 disaster. Most of the 1,500 service members were sent to the site without protective clothing or warnings of the radiological hazards. They were exposed to internal and external alpha radiation, after two of the B52’s nuclear warheads were blown to pieces dispersing as much as 22 pounds of highly radioactive pulverized plutonium. (See Spring Nukewatch Quarterly.)
The Palomares Veterans Act would amend current law and add the cleanup operations at Palomares to the Pentagon’s list of its “radiation risk activities.” Since many of the veterans of the dangerous cleanup duty have already died, the law would also make surviving spouses and their children eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation — a monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease.
In January 1966, a US Air Force B-52 bomber collided with an Air Force KC-135 tanker aircraft over the Spanish village of Palomares, resulting in one of the largest plutonium disasters in history.