• English
  • العربية
  • 中文
  • Français
  • Русский
  • Español

You are here

Nuclear Science to Control Mosquitoes, Generate Clean Energy a Key Focus of Director General Grossi's Visit to Brazil


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi attends the Sterile Insect Release Ceremony for Dengue Mosquito Control Release during his official visit to Brazil, July 2021. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Recife and Angra dos Reis – Brazil is a key IAEA partner, and the exchange of knowledge between the Agency and Brazilian experts in the peaceful uses of nuclear science can benefit both and beyond, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said during his visit to the country, where, among others, he saw an IAEA-supported project to use a nuclear technique to combat mosquitoes that transmit Zika and dengue, and visited the Angra dos Reis nuclear power plant.

The week-long visit, Mr Grossi’s first to Latin America since he took office in 2019, kicked off in the city of Recife, where he participated in insect releases as part of an IAEA-supported programme to use the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to control mosquitoes in the neighbourhood of Brasilia Teimosa. The SIT is a type of birth control for insects, where male insects are mass reared and rendered unable to reproduce using radiation. They are then released in large numbers to mate with wild females, resulting in no offspring and therefore contributing to a decline in the mosquito population over time. The method has been used for decades to control agricultural pests such as the Mediterranean- and Screwworm flies and has recently been developed against mosquitoes.

The project implementing partner, Moscamed Brasil, is one of the first SIT facilities in the world to mass rear sterile Aedes aegypti mosquitoes for release, targeting two municipalities in the Brazilian states of Bahia and Pernambuco which were particularly hard-hit by Zika in 2016. The IAEA has provided support to Moscamed Brasil since 2005 and facilitated the transfer of a gamma cell irradiator in recent years to scale up the production of sterile insects.

“What we see here is nuclear science for development, improving the lives of people,” Mr Grossi said in Recife. “The result of the pilot trials in Recife to use SIT to fight Zika, dengue and other diseases will be important not only to Brazil, but worldwide.”

Sterile Aedes aegypti male mosquitoes are being released weekly in a pilot project in the Brasilia Teimosa neighbourhood of Recife, Pernambuco. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Since October 2020, between 250 000 and 350 000 sterile males have been released weekly over a 60-hectare surface area. The releases – the first in an urban setting – have already resulted in a 19 percent reduction in the wild mosquito population in the area. Moscamed Brasil was designated an IAEA Collaborating Centre in 2018, and now provides experts and training for countries such as Mauritius, South Africa and Thailand in various SIT projects.

Mr Grossi also visited the Regional Centre of Nuclear Sciences at the Pernambuco State University as well as its Nuclear Science Museum, which does a fantastic job in demystifying nuclear technology and promoting STEM education, he said.

On Friday, Mr Grossi visited Brazil’s only nuclear power station at Angra dos Reis, on the coast between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The plant has two operating reactors with a total capacity of 1 884 MW(e), with a third one under construction, and provides around 2.1 percent of Brazil’s electricity. In 2020, Brazil adopted a national plan that considers an increase of 10 gigawatts in the nuclear installed capacity in the country by 2050.

“Brazil has a very developed and ambitious nuclear power programme,” the Director General said, “and the IAEA is ready to continue our good cooperation with the country in this area.”

On Saturday, Mr Grossi is scheduled to visit the Nuclear and Energy Research Institute (IPEN) at the University of Sao Paulo. The institute works in several areas related to the nuclear sciences and runs the country’s first research reactor. It also carries out research into the industrial applications of radiation, such as to sterilize community face masks, modify plastics and preserve cultural artifacts, and will be responsible for running Brazil’s 30 MW multipurpose research reactor, which will aid the country in the use of radiopharmaceuticals to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer.

Stay in touch