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The Netherlands continues to store some 22 tactical US nuclear bombs at a southern air base where they were brought during the height of the Cold War, a former Dutch prime minister has revealed.
Ruud Lubbers, who headed the Dutch government between 1982-94 told National Geographic in a documentary about the Dutch Air Force how he was charged with helping to install the bombs at Volkel air force base near Eindhoven in southeastern Netherlands in 1963.
Lubbers, an ensign back then told the show "The Time Flies" he was told to disguise the bombs by marking them as "normal parts" on the base not to arouse suspicion.
Dutch media on Monday reported that the centre-right Lubbers is the highest former Dutch functionary to officially admit to the nukes' existence, but that it has been an open secret for many years.
"If you go to Volkel now, we still have 'parts' that fulfil a nuclear function," Lubbers told the programme, first broadcast late Saturday with re-runs on Monday.
"I'm wondering why those crazy things are still there, because I think it's absolutely senseless," Lubbers added.
Dutch financial daily NRC reported that the fifty-kiloton yield B61 bombs, a tactical nuclear weapon up to four times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, were stationed around various bases in Europe in the 1960s to deter a Soviet attack.
The Netherlands saw mass demonstrations during the early 1980s against nuclear weapons including in October 1983 when some 550,000 people protested in The Hague against plans to deploy cruise missiles in the Netherlands.
Asked about the bombs, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told journalists at a briefing on Monday "as you know, the Dutch government does not give any information on these matters."