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Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories

Science for All: Renewing the Pledge

IAEA Laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria.

The IAEA is unique in the UN family in having specialized laboratories that support its activities in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. In Seibersdorf, Austria, the IAEA Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications (NA) manages eight laboratories dedicated to helping Member States achieve their development goals in food and agriculture, human health, the terrestrial environment, and nuclear science. The NA laboratories in Seibersdorf support Member States by providing training, conducting research to develop and improve nuclear technologies and techniques, and offering analytical services to help and strengthen Member State laboratories.

Five of the eight nuclear applications laboratories in Seibersdorf are dedicated to agriculture and biotechnology, and are jointly operated with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). These laboratories focus on insect pest control, plant breeding and genetics, soil and water management and crop nutrition, animal health and production and food safety. Working under this highly successful partnership, these laboratories have made significant contributions to food security and safety that have benefited farmers and consumers around the world, and this year the 50th anniversary of this partnership will be commemorated.

In human health, the Dosimetry Laboratory collaborates closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), through a worldwide network of Secondary Standard Dosimetry Laboratories, to ensure that Member States use medical radiation for cancer diagnosis and treatment safely and effectively, and in accordance with international standards.

The Terrestrial Environment Laboratory coordinates a global network of Member State laboratories to ensure the quality of environmental radiation monitoring and measurements and the ability of these laboratories to respond to unexpected releases of radiation. Finally, the Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory adapts and develops advanced scientific instruments and provides training that Member States need to advance their capabilities in all areas of nuclear science.

A Time for ReNuAL

Since their founding in 1962, the NA laboratories in Seibersdorf have provided Member States with valued assistance in these areas to help them increase their expertise and capacities, and Member States' interest in this support is demonstrated by their increasing demand for the services the NA laboratories provide. However, in the more than fifty years of their existence, the laboratories have not received a comprehensive renovation or thorough upgrading of equipment, and the aged condition of the laboratories and their equipment is now limiting their ability to efficiently respond to Member State needs.

In this context, in 2012, at the 50th anniversary of the Seibersdorf laboratories, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano highlighted the urgent need to modernize and upgrade the facilities, which was endorsed in the following year by the IAEA General Conference in its support for what is now known as the ReNuAL (the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories) project.

ReNuAL officially commenced in January 2014, with a targeted budget of €31 million, financed by the IAEA Regular Budget and by extrabudgetary funding from Member States. The renovation of the NA laboratories aims to establish some fit-for-purpose facilities at Seibersdorf that will be capable of serving Member States' growing and evolving sustainable development needs in the years to come. The project plan includes the construction of new buildings and facilities and the renovation of existing buildings, the acquisition of new equipment to replace ageing or obsolete instruments, and other improvements to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of laboratory operations.

The groundbreaking for ReNuAL will take place in Seibersdorf on 29 September 2014, and this ceremony will be held in conjunction with a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the partnership between the IAEA and FAO. As this celebration will mark the achievements to date of this unique and valued partnership, the ReNuAL project will also help to ensure that the NA laboratories in Seibersdorf continue to share their knowledge and expertise and promote the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology for the benefit of all Member States.

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