At the center of complex negotiations such as the Iranian nuclear program, the Aiea (International Atomic Energy Agency) wants to expand its role in promoting the use of sector technologies to combat Covid-19, new pandemics and climate change.
The different uses of nuclear energy is one of the goals of the Director General of this UN agency (United Nations), Argentinian Rafael Grossi, who has been in office since December 2019.
In June last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic was already devastating the planet, he created the Zodiac Initiative (English abbreviation for Integrated Action for Zoonotic Diseases) from existing projects.
Approximately 300 laboratories around the world have been linked by the Aiea to work on solutions derived from nuclear applications related to the pandemic.
Few people know, but the gold standard test for detecting Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus, RT-PCR, originally used radioactive isotopes in identifying the virus’s genetic material – it now uses fluorescent markers.
“Aiea has been an underutilized tool. Many of these things have already been done on a smaller scale. There are a number of growing challenges. We cannot go on with what we are doing, these are things that require a different response from the international community.” ”, Grossi told Folha on Saturday (17) in São Paulo.
Some ideas being investigated at Zodiac include irradiating blood, a common practice for inactivating white blood cells that donor recipients may reject to attack viruses.
She also advocates global surveillance against new pandemics by expanding the use of isotopes to identify animal viruses that are invading human communities.
During a visit to Brazil, Grossi attended the Aedes aegypti male sterile mosquito release program in the slums of Recife. Ten million of these animals, which were exposed to gamma rays at the Federal University of Pernambuco, have been released since last year.
The idea is simple. The barren mosquito competes with the fertile male and copulates with females who lazily lay eggs. The program calculates that 60% of the eggs analyzed so far are inactivated, which helps reduce the risk of spreading dengue, chikungunya and zika vectors.
The Argentine mentioned another case, that of Moscamed, an organic factory for fruit flies and other sterile animals that opened in Juazeiro (BA) in 2005. “The technology of sterilizing insects is not new, but we need to help bring these models to other countries on a large scale,” he said.
In São Paulo he visited the Ipen (Institute for Energy and Nuclear Research) administered by the National Nuclear Energy Commission.
“We can recycle plastic without solvents. Ipen has a lot of experience, we also work with it in Asia. The tool already exists and is paid for by the Brazilian taxpayer. The international bureaucracy is irritating, it has to offer solutions for the people. “
Grossi says that obviously “we are not the saviors of the world” and defends his joint projects with WHO (World Health Organization) and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
Nuclear energy is already a central part of everyday medical life, from exams to various therapies, but the coordination of efforts is unparalleled.
With regard to climate change, Grossi is committed to the use of nuclear energy and knows the resistance it encounters – especially in Europe, where green parties have considerable power in some countries.
Accidents like Fukushima (2011) and Chernóbil (1986) have helped add to the stigma on the matrix, and critics point out that it is not as clean because the production of its inputs also ultimately creates a carbon footprint.
It may be, but the fact is that direct emissions from nuclear power generation are zero and for Grossi they should be part of each nation’s energy mix according to the specifics. In the world today, 10% of electricity and 4% of total energy is of atomic origin.
He cites the floods in Central Europe as another warning signal for the impending problem.
The initiative of the 60-year-old Argentine has drawn some criticism for diverting focus from the Aiea’s primary goal of monitoring nuclear proliferation in its 173 member countries and promoting the safety of the use of the Matrix.
“We wasted time, not focused. We are and continue to be a very tough watchdog. It’s the same as saying that a government cannot be concerned with education and security at the same time,” he said. “The ambition could be much bigger. Our role is to inspire, to suggest things that can be done.”
It’s an inconsistent race in this field. This year the operating budget of Aiea is 383 million euros (today 2.3 billion R $). The US nuclear weapons modernization program alone, the world’s largest power in this field, provides 57 billion US dollars (297 billion R $) annually for three decades.