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First-time Donors, Developing Countries Provide Funding to Renovate IAEA Nuclear Applications Labs, More Needed


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and Malta’s Ambassador Natasha Meli Daudey on 25 November 2021. Malta is among the seven latest contributors and a first-time donor to the IAEA initiative to renovate its nuclear applications laboratories. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

With a steady increase in the number of donor countries, including both developing and first-time contributing nations, the latest phase of a major project to refurbish IAEA’s nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf is approaching the next milestone: construction start.

At a hybrid event on 25 November, held on the margins of the IAEA’s Board of Governors meeting, the IAEA recognized seven new donors to the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories (ReNuAL2): Ireland, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal and Viet Nam.

The twelve laboratories of the IAEA are a unique feature within the United Nations family. Eight of those are in Seibersdorf, southeast of Vienna, conducting applied research and development, delivering training and capacity building to Member States and providing technical and analytical services that respond to their development needs. Areas of focus range from food and agriculture to human health, environment and nuclear instrumentation.

“Almost every day I am reminded of real-world problems like cancer, environmental issues and climate change, for which our laboratories contribute toward solutions,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said at the event. “We need to complete their modernization to ensure they are fit for purpose to keep doing so.”

The recently announced contributions to ReNuAL2, comprising the construction of a new laboratory building, replacement of ageing greenhouses for agriculture and the refurbishment the Dosimetry Laboratory, will support the project’s swift progress. However, about €6.7 million of the total €24.5 million project costs are still needed to be raised in order to have the full funding on hand at the time of a contract signing. Securing this money swiftly will prevent the risks of cost escalation in a challenging and unpredictable market landscape. If the money is raised on time in 2022, the work will be completed by 2024.

The diversity of countries that come together to complete the laboratories’ modernization is a testament to the important work they do to improve Member State capacities to confront the challenges of today and tomorrow, many participants at the event highlighted.

…the laboratories play a vital role in developing applications from food safety and pest control to life saving medical treatments…
Ambassador Eoin O'Leary, Ireland

Seven more countries have placed plaques bearing their names and flags to the ReNuAL2 donor display at the Side Event held on the margins of the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, 25 November 2021. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

“Although Kenya is not a rich country, we decided to contribute to ReNuAL2 so that the laboratories can be fit-for-purpose to respond effectively to growing Member States’ demands for training, services, and applied research aimed at addressing existing and emerging challenges,” said Robinson Njeru Githae, Kenya’s Ambassador to Austria and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Vienna.

Ireland is a first-time contributor.

“Ireland is more than willing to make a contribution to ReNuAL2 because the laboratories play a vital role in developing applications from food safety and pest control to life saving medical treatments, and ReNuAL2 will ensure they continue to perform at the highest standards,” said Eoin O’Leary, Ireland’s Ambassador to Austria and the International Organizations in Vienna.

Another first-time contributor is the island nation of Malta. Natasha Meli Daudey, Ambassador to Austria and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Vienna, expressed her country’s support for the modernization initiative: “Without these laboratories, Malta and other Member States of the IAEA would have a hard time dealing with the global emerging threats such as zoonotic diseases, climate change, and food and water insecurity.”

What ReNuAL has achieved so far

The modernisation of the IAEA nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf began in 2014. To date, ReNuAL has delivered three major new laboratory facilities and significant equipment upgrades that have partially or fully addressed the modernization of five of the eight laboratories. This progress was made possible with generous extrabudgetary and in-kind contributions, totalling more than €50 million, from 45 Member States and some individuals and through non-traditional private partnerships for key laboratory equipment.

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