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General Conference Event Highlights Countries’ Strong Support for IAEA Lab Modernization


Pictured from left to right: IAEA Deputy Director General and head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications Najat Mokhtar; German Ambassador Goetz Schmidt-Bremme; US Deputy Chief of Mission Louis L. Bono; IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi; the Saudi Arabia Minister of Energy HRH Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud; Belgium Minister of Energy H.E. Ms. Tinne Van der Straeten; South Africa Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Nobuhle Nkabane; and South African Ambassador Rapulane Sydney Molekane. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Countries have recognized that nuclear science plays an important role in tackling the world’s most pressing issues and are investing in the capabilities of IAEA laboratories, to show their support and accelerate action, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi today told an audience of diplomats and country representatives at this year’s 66th IAEA General Conference. An event, ‘ReNuAL2: Modernization of the IAEA Seibersdorf Laboratories’, celebrated recent donations from Belgium, Saudi Arabia and the United States of America to the IAEA’s project for renovating and modernizing its laboratory hub in Austria, called ReNuAL2.

The event was attended by the Saudi Minister of Energy HRH Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, Belgian Minister of Energy Tinne Van der Straeten and US Deputy Chief of Mission Louis Bono, representing the three recent contributing Member States.

The extrabudgetary funding will support construction of a new building in Seibersdorf that will serve as a new home for the Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, the Plant Breeding and Genetics Laboratory and the Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory. During the event, Mr Grossi presented His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz with a national plaque and invited him to place it in a commemorative donor display at the IAEA Headquarters in Vienna to honor Saudi Arabia’s first-time contribution to the ReNuAL2 phase of the modernization initiative. Saudi Arabia had provided extrabudgetary support for the earlier phase of ReNuAL. Mr Grossi said Saudi Arabia’s contribution had brought the completion of ReNuAL “tantalizingly close” to the finish line.

HRH Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud said the contribution was “another testimony that Saudi Arabia builds, doesn’t destroy; cooperates, doesn’t eliminate; and that we seek in our national programme, transparency.”

Repeat contributors and supporters

The contributions from Belgium and the United States – two repeat contributors whose plaques had already been included on the ReNuAL2 donor display at earlier events – were also highlighted. Ms Van der Straeten said: “It’s not difficult to be a donor for a programme like this,” referring to the modernization project. “I have seen for myself the innovation, the passion and the expertise of the people working there. What you do in Seibersdorf is protecting food security and many households in sub-Saharan Africa, so I am very happy and proud to be a repeat donor.”

Mr Grossi also thanked the Co-chairs of the Friends of ReNuAL Group, Germany and South Africa, for their efforts in encouraging strong countries’ support for the ReNuAL initiative. The Friends of ReNuAL Group is an informal group of IAEA Member States supporting the laboratory modernization.

“The ReNuAL project illustrates the important role played by nuclear science and technology in addressing our needs,” said South African Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Nobuhle Nkabane on behalf of the Co-chairs. “It is a shining example of how solidarity and collaboration among us is contributing to our common interests.” She reiterated South Africa’s commitment to the project, adding: “it is our view that the renovation of the laboratories at Seibersdorf should continue to be one of the priorities at the core of our agenda.”

For more than 60 years, the IAEA’s eight nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf have trained thousands of scientists in nuclear techniques that can be applied in addressing environmental, food security and human health challenges. To continue to meet the needs of the increasing number of countries accessing laboratory services, the IAEA has since 2014 been undertaking a significant modernization of the laboratories and has already built new facilities for five of the Seibersdorf laboratories. ReNuAL2 aims to complete the effort by the end of 2024.

To date, the ReNuAL2 phase of the initiative has raised over €20 million from 28 supportive countries. The IAEA is now focused on raising a further €5.5 million by early 2023 to procure and launch construction of new laboratory greenhouses that will strengthen its support for Member States in addressing challenges with climate change and food insecurity. 

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