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Consent for this major power line proposal in Scotland was given in January 2010. EMFs had featured extensively in the Public Inquiry, but no EMF restrictions were imposed on the line.
Some of the key links and conclusions relating to EMFs are as follows:
The consent letters to Scottish & Southern Electricity and to Scottish Power Transmission state the following on EMF:
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
“Electric field levels (EFs) and magnetic field levels (MFs) - together known as electromagnetic field (EMF) levels - were considered by the Reporters in the context of Government policy and guidance. The Reporters state that, while the evidence indicates that magnetic field strengths would remain well below the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (lCNIRP) reference level, electric field levels in certain locations could exceed the ICNIRP reference level. However, the Technical Assessor also states that, in view of the nature of the terrain, the limited access and limited period of exposure, the line would comply with relevant Government guidelines. The Reporters concluded that the proposal complies with current guidelines on EMF. The Scottish Ministers concur with that conclusion.”
The conclusions of the Technical Assessor as set out in Advice to Minister includes the following:
Electric and Magnetic Fields
3.1 The Technical Assessor’s Report summarises the Applicants’ evidence presented to the strategy session of the Inquiry on electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and the potential associated health risks at Chapter 2, paragraph 5. The objections lodged by Stirling Before Pylons (StBP), Highlands Before Pylons (HBP), The Highland Council and Perth and Kinross Council on health grounds are summarised at Chapter 3 paragraph 4 and the Technical Assessor’s conclusions are at Chapter 4, paragraph 2. In summary, the Technical Assessor concluded that in the absence of any precautionary measures established by means of Government policy and guidance, the case was not strong enough to propose precautionary measures, and the Reporters concurred.
3.2 The health concerns regarding overhead power lines are closely linked to the levels of electric and magnetic fields that would be created by the flow of electricity through them. Included in the Technical Assessor’s Report is the weight of evidence assessment, undertaken by the Applicants, of research published in the period January 2003 to December 2006. This assessment considered medical conditions such as childhood and adult leukaemia, breast cancer, brain cancer, depression/suicide, electrical sensitivity, effects on human reproduction and neurodegenerative diseases. For each condition, no direct proven causal link from exposure to EMF was identified, although magnetic fields have been shown to increase the effects of known carcinogens. The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) have commented that epidemiological evidence indicates that exposure to power frequency magnetic fields above 0.4 microTesla (µT) is associated with a small absolute raised risk of leukaemia in children. Nevertheless, NRPB concluded that the evidence “is not strong enough to justify a firm conclusion that such fields cause leukaemia in children”.
3.3 The Technical Assessor considered it necessary to look to Government policy and guidance, an approach the Reporters did not contest. The policy of the UK Government for addressing public health and safety issues associated with EMF is based on reviews of the scientific literature by the former NRPB which was subsumed by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in 2004. The aforementioned weight of evidence review was conducted on these terms. In 2004 the UK Government accepted a recommendation from NRPB that the reference levels for the general public recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) should be taken into account when assessing health risks from EMF exposure. Consideration of these reference levels within the planning system was one of the recommendations put forward by the SAGE report, and is discussed below.
The SAGE Report
3.4 The Stakeholders Advisory Group on extremely low frequency EMF (SAGE) was established in response to a recommendation from the HPA that, in view of the scientific uncertainties about a possible increase in the risk of childhood leukaemia due to exposure to the electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) from the electricity distribution system, “the Government should consider the need for further precautionary measures". The SAGE process and its findings and recommendations, which were included in its interim report, are described in more detail at pp. 58-59 of the Technical Assessor’s report. Following the conclusion of the PLI, the Scottish Government has issued its formal response to the SAGE report which endorses the report’s recommendations.
3.5 75 spans of the proposed line have been identified by the Applicants as having the potential, under certain onerous conditions, to breach the ICNIRP exposure levels and subsequent stages of assessment recommended by HPA guidance. However, only 22 of these spans are over land to which members of the public would have access. Due to the improbability of these conditions arising, and the negligible likely exposure times, the Technical Assessor concluded that the proposal accords with the ICNIRP and HPA guidance in line with the SAGE recommendation, and the Reporters concurred. The Technical Assessor also noted that the proposal accords with the SAGE recommendation that optimal phasing be implemented for electricity transmission by overhead line.
3.6 The Reporters concluded that the Technical Assessor has provided a reasonable and fair summary and analysis of the evidence related to research into the health effects of EMF. Overall the Technical Assessor concluded that the proposal complies with current Government guidelines on EMF and we concur with the Reporters in agreeing with that conclusion.