The Government is to pay more than €2m towards building a protective shell around the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor, it emerged today.
Dermot Ahern, Foreign Affairs Minister, said almost €2.6m would be donated to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund (CSF) before the end of 2006.
The decision means more than €7m has been made available since 1997 to help secure the stricken area and ensure the destroyed nuclear reactor is stable and environmentally safe.
“The accident in Chernobyl on April 26 1986 is an event which has been seared into the collective memory of all of Europe,” Mr Ahern said.
“The visible evidence of the silent devastation, caused by the accident, remains with us to this day.”
Mr Ahern said the plight of the people of Chernobyl who have lived with the devastating effects of the radiation spill was close to the country’s heart due to the work of Adi Roche in the Chernobyl Children’s Project.
Ms Roche praised the funding and said it was a shining example to other European States.
“Mainland Europe is hugely at risk as long as we leave this job unfinished and this announcement throws down the gauntlet to our partners saying hurry up,” Ms Roche said.
“The people in Belarus, and elsewhere, can breathe a sigh of relief. That is very, very important for them, giving them the possibility of living in a relatively safe environment.
“And if European Governments are considering the future protection of their natural and physical environments and of the gene pool they are honour-bound to follow this initiative by the Irish Government.”
Money gathered by the CSF goes towards helping the Ukraine to transform the existing Chernobyl shelter covering the decimated nuclear reactor into a stable and environmentally safe system.
The project was started after the original shelter, which was hastily built after the accident, had deteriorated and become unstable.
Officials have been gathering funds since 1997 to assist the Ukraine in its work when the G-7 nations and the European Commission set up the project.
The new pledge was made at a special conference of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) which is managing the shelter fund project.
As the project was launched in 1997 the Government committed to €2.3m over a three-year period, and it also pledged €2.3m for the years 2001 to 2003.