Spain - Plutonium Investigation n°16

July 1999                                     Editorial

Spanish Civil Plutonium for Weapons in the UK and France?

    Spain is certainly the only country without its own nuclear weapons to both contribute to the military plutonium stockpile of a neighbor country, and to have the dangerous experience of four nuclear weapons "land" on its own territory, with all the consequent contamination.   

In the global plutonium picture Spain is relatively insignificant if plutonium quantities alone are assessed. And as its government has renounced reprocessing, aside from the interesting and important cases of irradiated fuel already sent to France and the UK for separation, the main contemporary issue is the long term storage or eventual final disposal of plutonium-bearing spent fuel. In this focus Spain is similar to many countries that embarked on a commercial scale nuclear program in the late 1960s or early 1970s, for whom the promise of plutonium has become an expensive environmental liability .

The covert and opaque military assistance to the French 'Force de Frappe' nuclear warheads also serves to remind that any country that contracted into reprocessing services with the European Union's two reprocessor nations - France and UK - has run the risk that their plutonium has been mixed into the weapons stockpile of these two nuclear weapon states, which have typically not retained clear physical separation between commercially contracted fuel and military dedicated plutonium.

It was revealed in the leading Spanish newspaper, El Pas, in February 1987 that Spain had secretly done research and development on its own nuclear weapons from the 1950s. As in the case of Sweden, examined in PI last issue No.14-15, this military atomic aspiration was abandoned. Spain now does not even allow NATO allies' nuclear weapons to be officially stored on Spanish soil.

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Worth Reading & Surfing

C. Küppers, W. Liebert, M. Sailer, "Realisierbarkeit der Verglasung von Plutonium zusammen mit hochradioaktiven Abfällen sowie der Fertigung von MOX-Lagerstäben zur Direkten Endlagerung als Alternativen zum Einsatz von MOX-Brennelementen",Öko-Institut, 1999,
113 pages, 20 DM.