Friday, March 08, 2013

The Spanish Bomb

The ABC newspaper ran an interesting story on Sunday about Spain's atomic bomb program. This was following an obsession of Francisco Franco to build a bomba and, perhaps, toss it at somebody. One of the reasons that Franco wanted the bomb, says José Lesta, who has just written a book called 'Claves ocultas del poder mundial', was to join the select club of the veto-wielding powers in the United Nations. Furthermore, having this technology at hand would have made Spain, and Franco, a geo-strategic power in Europe. Lastly, says the author, the availability of an atomic bomb would have given Franco enormous clout over his eternal enemy Morocco, especially since, in the Spanish Sahara, he had a perfect location for atomic tests.
By order of the Caudillo himself, in 1951, a select group of scientists and military leaders under General Juan Vigón opened a secret project, now known as the 'Junta de Energía Nuclear', whose job was to provide the country with a nuclear arsenal. Soon, following Vigón's death in 1955, an even more obsessive commander took over the project, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco (better known as Franco's chosen successor, until he was assassinated by ETA in 1973). The Americans unconsciously participated by donating money towards Spain's nuclear energy program and with their help, Franco and Carrero Blanco opened in Madrid the 'Centro Nacional de Energía Nuclear Juan Vigón'.
Spain had all the ingredients to make a bomb, and it had the science. All it needed was one final explosive key element, plutonium. The French were willing to help, and a joint Franco/Spanish project, at Vandellós I was opened: Spain's first nuclear power station was a reality. The USA was not a supporter of this development and asked both France and Spain to sign a nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which De Gaulle and Franco both declined to do. 
In the 1960s, Spain had the technology, the scientists and the wherewithal to make a bomb. She could produce around 200 kilos of military-grade plutonium. Spain is Europe's second largest producer of uranium and, with the accidental loss of four USAF nuclear bombs in Palomares, Almería in January 1966, the final ingredient fell into Spanish hands - the trigger device. 
The Americans were once again unhappy with developments, and Henry Kissinger flew over to Spain to meet with General Franco, the future king Juan Carlos de Borbón, and, in a long and acrimonious discussion,  with Carrero Blanco. It was the 19th December1973. 
What was said has never been disclosed, but, less than 24 hours later, Carrero Blanco was dead, blown up  and across the roofs of Madrid in his armour-plated Dodge. With the Admiral's passing, and the evidence of American disapproval, the project for Spain's atomic bomb languished. 
Eventually, Felipe Gonzalez signed the non-proliferation treaty in 1987 and Spain's dream of an atomic bomb was at an end. 

OK, the bit about the CIA blowing up Carrero Blanco seems rather unlikely... 

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