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Remarks at Groundbreaking Ceremony for Renovation of NA Laboratories and 50th Anniversary of Joint FAO/IAEA Division

Vienna Austria
Groundbreaking Ceremony for Renovation of NA Laboratories and 50th Anniversary of Joint FAO/IAEA Division

Madame Chair, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon. I am very pleased to welcome you all to Seibersdorf.

We are here for two important reasons.

First, to conduct the symbolic groundbreaking for the renovation of the IAEA Nuclear Applications laboratories.

And second, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.

I extend a special welcome to the Deputy Director General of the FAO, Ms. Maria Helena Semedo.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA is unique within the UN family in having no fewer than eight Nuclear Applications laboratories here in Seibersdorf.

Since they opened in 1962, the laboratories have been offering training to scientists in Member States; supporting research in human health, food and other areas; and providing analytical services to national laboratories.

Demand for their services has grown dramatically. Back in 1962, the Agency had 79 Member States. Today, we have 162 - and our General Conference approved the admission of four more countries last week.

In the last ten years alone, both the number of Technical Cooperation projects supported by the Insect Pest Control Laboratory, and the number of radiation therapy beams checked by the Dosimetry Laboratory, have nearly doubled.

The other laboratories report a similar pattern of increasing demand. This is very welcome.

However, the laboratories are showing their age. The buildings are now too small. And both they, and the equipment they contain, are in urgent need of modernisation.

We are unable to keep up with demand from Member States for placements for scientific fellows and have to turn many excellent candidates away.

We have therefore developed a project, known as ReNuAL, to thoroughly modernise the laboratories over the next three years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If money was no object, we could easily spend two or three times the 31 million euros we have budgeted for ReNuAL in creating the best possible, state-of-the-art facilities.

But we are realistic and we fully understand the financial constraints in many Member States. We therefore came up with a project that is as low-cost as we can make it, while ensuring that we will have fit-for-purpose laboratories that will meet Member State needs for decades to come.

In addition, following consultations with Member States, possible elements that go beyond the 31-million-euro-budget may be implemented following the successful completion of the ReNuAL project, subject to the availability of additional funds. This is now referred to as ReNuAL Plus.

We are also seriously considering a collaboration with Austria on establishing Biosafety Level 3 laboratory capabilities for the Animal Health and Production Laboratory in Moedling.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

ReNuAL is an extremely important project for the Agency, which will benefit all Member States.

A number of countries have already contributed and I am very grateful to them. Others have shown keen interest in making in-kind contributions. We need not just new equipment, but suitable buildings to house this equipment. I appeal to all countries to contribute generously.

I especially appreciate the efforts of the Co-chairs of the Friends of ReNuAL group - Ambassador Scharinger of Germany, and Ambassador Seokolo of South Africa.

They have been working hard to increase Member State awareness of the importance of ReNuAL and to help raise funding.

Our symbolic groundbreaking today marks the start of implementation of the ReNuAL project.

I am confident that, with the active support of our Member States, we will, by 2017, have a cluster of modern, well-equipped laboratories here in Seibersdorf that we can all be proud of.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me now turn to the second reason for our gathering today - the 50th anniversary of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division.

Since 1964, this unique partnership has helped many developing countries to feed their growing populations and boosted the income of many farmers.

The Joint Division has helped to conserve precious agricultural soil and water resources; to eradicate the deadly cattle disease rinderpest; and to curb the damage caused by fruit flies to citrus crops in Europe and the Americas.

It has also contributed to improved food safety in South America by establishing a network of Member State food safety laboratories.

Without losing its core focus on agricultural development and food security, it has evolved to meet changing Member State needs, for example by developing its capacity to help countries respond to the effects of climate change.

The work of the Joint Division is an excellent example of the enormous contribution which peaceful nuclear technology can make to sustainable development.

This is a solid success story, in which all of us from the IAEA and the FAO can take pride. I am very happy to celebrate this important anniversary with you today.

Thank you.


Last update: 26 July 2017