VIENNA,19th September, 2016 (WAM) — The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has begun building a new laboratory that will enable it to step up its efforts to help countries use nuclear techniques to control insect pests, including mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus and other diseases.

The construction is part of the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories project (ReNuAL), a plan to begin upgrading the eight IAEA Nuclear Sciences and Applications laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria, which opened their doors in 1962.

They play a key role in the IAEA’s activities to assist countries with the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology in areas including human and animal health, food security and the protection of the environment.

“ReNuAL is one of the most important projects in the Agency’s 60-year history,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

ReNuAL has a budget of 31 million euro.

“The laboratories are unique within the United Nations system in providing Member States with direct access to scientific training, technology and analytical services. More than 150 of our Member States benefit from them.”

“The work done in these laboratories is in high demand,” he added. “When they have been modernized, the Agency’s ability to meet the needs of our Member States will be significantly increased.”

The project is getting under way with the construction of a new Insect Pest Control Laboratory, due to be completed by the end of 2017. The laboratory is responsible for the development and application of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). Developed jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), it is an environmentally friendly method that has been successfully used for decades to combat fruit flies and livestock pests, such as the screwworm fly and the tsetse fly.