The Lord Mayor of Cork will visit the Chernobyl nuclear power plant next week as he leads a historic Irish civic delegation to the region ahead of the 30th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident.
During a specially cleared visit to the heart of Chernobyl’s vast nuclear exclusion site, Cllr Chris O’Leary will be briefed on the progress of the €1.5bn steel and concrete shield, or sarcophagus, being built to contain radiation in the plant’s number four reactor, which exploded in April 1986.
A French-led team of scientists, engineers, and construction workers are building the shield, which, when complete next year, will be twice the size of Croke Park and tall enough to house the Statue of Liberty.
The Irish Government, which has contributed €8m towards the project, is one of 40 countries and organisations funding the ‘confinement structure’.
Mr O’Leary will be accompanied on the five-day visit by Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty; Irish ambassador to Belarus David Noonan; and Adi Roche, the voluntary chief executive of the Cork-based Chernobyl Children International (CCI) charity, which, since its foundation 25 years ago, has overseen the delivery of over €100m in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Belarus.
They will visit orphanages, clinics, hospices, foster homes, and independent living units which have been built and funded by CCI, Irish volunteers, and the Irish Government; meet relatives of families directly affected by the radioactive fallout; and visit abandoned towns like Pripyat. Mr O’Leary and Ms Doherty will also meet with the mayors of Glusk and Gomel.
The visit has been organised to recognise the work of CCI over the last 25 years.
“Cork is rightly proud of the fantastic work that has been done by the charity,” said Mr O’Leary last night.
“It is an honour for me to be travelling to Chernobyl not only to witness this work, but also to pay tribute on behalf of the people of Cork to the charity and to the hundreds of volunteers over the years.”
Ms Roche said it is significant that the Lord Mayor of Cork will lead the first official Irish delegation to Chernobyl given that the people of Cork were among the first ‘responders’ to the nuclear crisis 30 years ago.
“We hope that his presence will be a reminder of the threat Chernobyl still poses to the world and we are particularly pleased that he will have an opportunity to see the extraordinary work which Irish volunteers have been doing in regions affected by the Chernobyl accident,” she said.
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