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U.S. Assistant Secretary Visits IAEA Research Laboratories, Announces Contribution

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Sheba Crocker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs with Aldo Malavasi, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications at the Insect Pest Control Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria. Photo Credit: Bettina Kathrin Benzinger / IAEA

United States Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Sheba Crocker visited the IAEA research laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria today to get a first-hand look at the work that underpins much of the IAEA’s assistance to countries in using nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes.

She visited the Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, the Plant Breeding and Genetics Laboratory and the Insect Pest Control Laboratory (see photo), three of the eight research laboratories at the site.

“The rapid spread of the Zika virus has brought into sharp focus the vital significance of the work being done here at the Nuclear Applications Laboratories,” Ms. Crocker said referring to the recent Zika outbreak that has been associated with birth defects and various neurological conditions.

During her visit, Ms Crocker announced a $3 million extrabudgetary contribution to the IAEA.

$1 million to fight Zika

A third of the money, $1 million, will contribute towards a 2.3 million euro regional technical cooperation project to strengthen the capacity of Member States in Latin America and the Caribbean to suppress the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus, among others. As a result of the project, beneficiary countries will be able to use the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to complement other efforts to control the mosquitoes.

SIT is a form of biological control that uses ionizing radiation to sterilize male insects which are mass-produced in special rearing facilities. Large numbers of sterile males are then released systematically over a target area, where they mate with wild females. No offspring are produced, and — as sterile males gradually outnumber fertile ones — the wild insect population declines over time. It has been successfully used throughout the world for over 50 years for various agricultural insect pests. The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is spearheading global research in the development and application of SIT.

$2 million for research laboratories

A further $2 million of the contribution will support the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories (ReNuAL) of the IAEA. The nuclear sciences laboratories, built over 50 years ago, respond to global challenges in food and agriculture, human health and the environment, among other areas. Alongside IAEA scientists, hundreds of fellows and other scientific visitors from Member States work and train in the labs each year.

Aldo Malavasi, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Applications thanked the U.S. government for the contribution. “The additional funding from the United States is important not just for the IAEA but for all the Member States that will benefit from the important research of our laboratories,” he said. Preparation for the construction of the new labs began last September.

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