REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter

Revolt news 181 15/02/2005

1. The Exeter conference "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change"  with "200 scientists from around the world" is sponsored by DEFRA and held 1-3 Feb at the new Met Office Hadley Centre, not the university. The stream of sensational news releases has the appearance of government spin, to promote the case for opposing global warming. Elsewhere, DEFRA is criticised for its consultation including "the British Beer and Pub Association and of course every green group under the sun" while omitting the leading academic and professional institutions (which have been critical of its case and the consultation - APPENDIX 1). While there is a case to consider, I share concerns about sensationalism and spin, particularly in the context of political and commercial interests, not least in promoting wind farms beyond their very limited effectiveness.

2. At least the BBC has reported (very briefly) a conference on 27 January of scientists concerned to address questions they feared the Exeter conference would ignore. This conference is run by the Scientific Alliance , which includes eminent scientists with a sceptical view of the sensational claims about global warming. An earlier Alliance conference addressed risk and precaution, with reference to four current issues including mobile phones and wind power. 

3. An article "Hotting Up" in the Economist 4.2.05 confirms my fears about the Exeter conference on global warming. Tony Blair "asked Sir David King, his chief science adviser, to organise a scientific conference in Britain this week to work out what adds up to 'dangerous interference' with the climate system. There was talk of pressure from politicians for agreement on a specific numerical definition of what is 'dangerous'. In the end, no definition could be agreed on." Sadly, the politically driven conference may be no more valid than the infamous Iraq dossier on WMD.

4. Martin Collins sends an update on the Derrybrien landslide (the "bogalanche", news180.3, 179.9 and previous). Although the European Commission has issued a final warning to the Irish Government in respect of failures of environmental impact assessment for this project, the developers are continuing work apace. The local group petitioned the Irish High Court 31 Jan for an injunction, and directions were made for the exchange of legal papers, but the judge advised that for a speedy hearing the group would have to apply to the President of the High Court. (See APPENDIX 2)

5. Articles such as that in the Scotsman  say Irish firm Airtricity is to build the world's biggest wind farm off the east coast of Scotland. Some 5,000 turbines at a cost of 1.2 billion pounds are to provide 10 GW capacity. I wonder if the public appreciates the grid implications. It will need the equivalent of at least two new 400 kV double circuit powerlines running the length of the country from the wind farm in north east Scotland to somewhere near London. That is because at the rare times of peak production an extra 10 GW will need to be transmitted from north to south. On calm or stormy days when production is stopped there will need to be back-up generation of 10 GW, probably from the high CO2-emitting old power stations in the midlands and south Yorkshire. So, although most consumption is in England, especially the south, two alternative and very different major transmission patterns will need to be accommodated on the grid - with wind power full on or wind power all off. We can expect two new maximum size power lines and pylons crossing the Scottish central plain and Southern Uplands, on through Lancashire and/or Yorkshire and cutting right through middle England.

6. News from Powerwatch  : Dr Ian Gibson MP (Norwich North) has tabled a number of questions to Secretary of State for Health about progress with the Draper report, the long-awaited research paper about the incidence of leukaemia among children living near powerlines (see also revolt news169, 174.2, 179.10 etc.). It was understood that the final report would be published probably in January. A DH summary last year said the study covers some 35,000 cases between 1962 and 1995, an extraordinarily large data set. It was expected that the report would show whether there was a relation between the incidence of childhood leukaemia and EMF exposure from powerlines in the year before birth (as distinct from diagnosis, for which a relation has been established). Dr Gibson also tabled a question to Secretary of State for Trade & Industry on what discussions she has had on the study.

7. Spin chemistry continues to develop. What's that and why is it relevant? For years industry and government sceptics played down fears of risks from electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) from powerlines. They argued that such weak low-frequency fields were incapable of affecting DNA. Spin chemistry is one way that weak EMFs can affect molecules. Professor Denis Henshaw has passed on some new papers on this subject, and Professor Gerald Scott, who led Revolt's evidence on health at the 1992 inquiries, has passed on some of his current related work on spin chemistry and beta-carotene. A short overview is at APPENDIX 3.


APPENDIX 1 DEFRA Consultation on Climate Change Lacks Scientific & Engineering Authority

5 January 2005

IChemE has joined forces with three of the UK's largest professional engineering bodies to express concern over the scientific viability of DEFRA's recent consultation on the milestone review of the UK Climate Change Programme.

The engineering community was disappointed to observe that the list of consultees excluded all of the UK's major engineering Institutions and included only limited representation from university departments with strong track records in climate change and sustainable development research.

IChemE's Energy Spokesman, David White, said, "Chemical engineers have consistently argued that the Government's climate change and energy policies suffer from a lack of authoritative technical input. This consultation confirms our worst fears. DEFRA wants to hear the views of the National Trust, Greenpeace and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England but not those of the UK engineering community."

Speaking on behalf of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, John Loughhead, Chair of the IEE's Energy Sector Panel, said, "This limited consultation of the scientific and engineering communities will cast doubt on the Government's commitment to science and technology. The UK cannot credibly claim to be a global leader on climate change issues if the Government overlooks the substantial knowledge and expertise existing within the UK's scientific and engineering communities."

The professional engineering bodies concerned about the consultation include IChemE, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineers.

For more information, contact Suzi Mewes, External Relations, IChemE, Tel: +44 (0) 1788 534414, Email:

Notes to Editors

1. A full list of organisations consulted can be found at 

2. IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers) is the hub for chemical, biochemical and process engineering professionals worldwide. With a global membership approaching 25,000, the Institution is at the heart of the process community, promoting competence and a commitment to best practice, advancing the discipline for the benefit of society and supporting the professional development of its members. For more information, visit 


APPENDIX 2 Update on Deerybrien landslide.

Martin Collins writes: Work is proceeding on the site. Activities such as excavating turbine bases, thousands of meters of drains, cutting trees, constructing new roads, quarrying and pouring of concrete for turbine foundations are all continuing at an alarming rate on site. The construction of 7 kilometres of a new 110 KV powerline and two substations is also taking place The developers are also building 7 kilometres of a 110 KV powerline along with a T in substation. Excavation and removal of bog from the site of the substation/compound area on the windfarm site has started recently.


On the 31st of January 2005 the High Court will be asked to grant an injunction to Derrybrien Co-operative Society Limited to halt the ongoing programme of deforestation at the site of the Derrybrien windfarm. Orders will be sought restricting the Defendants, Saorgas Energy Limited, Coillte Teoranta and Gort Windfarms Limited from felling trees. The court will also be asked to fix a date for the hearing of the issues arising in relation to the deforestation programme.

The Derrybrien community have been forced to take this step because of the ongoing vigorous programme of works being carried on by Contractors on behalf of the Developers at the windfarm site. Notwithstanding the environmental devastation caused by the landslide in October 2003, the ESB subsidiaries and their Contractors continue to carry on a massive construction programme involving the extraction of bases for turbines and the pouring of considerable amounts of concrete. Although the local community commissioned an extensive experts report which revealed substantial risks of further damage and environmental degradation the Developers insist that they are entitled to proceed on foot of the existing planning permissions.

The local community have raised serious questions about the process through which planning permission was granted and in particular the lack of any appropriate Environmental Impact Assessment to deal with the likelihood of the landslide which the local people had warned about previously. Richard Lindsay and Dr. Olivia Bragg subjected the Environmental Impact Assessment, which was submitted, to detailed comprehensive criticism in their expert report commissioned by the local community. The response from ESB has been to continue to rely on the planning permission obtained on foot of this Environmental Impact Assessment and to have their consultants AGEC dismiss the concerns raised by the Lindsay/Bragg report.

It is extraordinary in this context that Galway County Council have failed to respond to the concerns raised by the local community in June 2003 and July of 2004 regarding the enforcement of planning regulation at the site. Furthermore the European Commission has issued a final warning to the Irish Government in respect of their failures in respect of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 85/337EEC as amended by Directive 97/11/EC. In particular they have raised the issue of the "failure to properly assess in advance the risks that the project presents as a result of soil instability". In addition the commission have pointed out that" the Irish authorities did not give any commitment to carrying out a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment."

The local community have always sought that the development would be halted until and appropriate planning procedure was gone through to deal with all of the issues, which should have been addressed prior to the original grants of planning permission. They have sought and continue to seek that a full and comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment would be gone through so that the European Commissions requirements be met and that they would be given an opportunity to address this development in an open and comprehensive way. The failure of the Developers, the local authorities and the government to address their concerns in this regard have forced the local co-operative society to take on the substantial risks of litigation which are necessitated because of the failure of the Developers to properly apply for planning permission for the de-forestation required for this development. The local people are concerned about the ongoing risks to water quality in the Owendalulleegh river and the possibility of further impacts in respect of drainage throughout the extensive area identified by the Lindsay and Bragg report as being at risk


APPENDIX 3 Spin chemistry and EMF

Professor Denis Henshaw has passed on some interesting new papers on spin chemistry (references below). They suggest that magnetic fields from powerlines (and mobile phones) may promote toxic products in the body, reinforcing the evidence of links with cancer.

Industry and government held a sceptical view for many years, arguing that there was no plausible biological mechanism to explain, for example, the doubling of leukaemia among exposed children. They could not accept that such weak fields with such low frequency could interact with molecules (and DNA) which normally involve fast interactions with concentrated energy.

On the other hand, many of us have argued that there were potential mechanisms not yet well understood, so consideration should not be restricted to "direct-hit" damage to DNA. Prof Gerald Scott gave evidence for Revolt to the 1992 inquiries, setting out chemical equations whereby free radicals (oxidative toxic chemicals) could be released by interaction of oxygen with metalloenzymes in the body by a reaction needing only low energy levels to start it. But Sir Richard Doll at the NRPB rather turned his nose up at the free radical idea.

For more details on free radicals and antioxidants see Gerald Scott's book at reference [4] below. This key 1997 book was not mentioned in NRPB's major reviews of 2001 and 2004. Checking the pdf file for Document 15-3, NRPB's latest and greatest review in 2004, I see that the word radical is mentioned only 5 times in the body of the report (pages 29, 47, 47, 91 and 147), only one of which refers to radical pairs. Also "spin" is mentioned only twice, once on page 23 referring to static fields and electron spin states, and once on page 93 referring to a spin-trap compound in connection with DNA breaks.

Evidence for a second key mechanism has also grown strongly over the last decade, and was largely missed by NRPB. This is the suppression of the natural nocturnal production of the hormone melatonin when people are exposed to weak magnetic fields. Growing evidence also shows the anti- cancer and anti-oxidant properties of melatonin.

Spin chemistry deals with the spin energy of molecules and ions. This opens up transitions with very low energy jumps. Results show interference from weak magnetic fields in the reactions of spin- correlated radical pairs (SCRPs), leading to effects by which toxic oxygen radicals can be promoted by the weak fields.

Free radicals, melatonin and spin chemistry are coming together in an increasingly coherent basis of evidence of potential harm from weak magnetic fields. These mechanisms may together add to the cumulative toxic oxidative stress in the body, weakening its immunity and resistance to cancer.

This does not yet give an exact step-by-step mechanism from residential exposures to leukaemia, but then the understanding of cancer in general is not at that level. What it does give is a plausible biological framework for cumulative stress risking harmful outcomes.

The authorities do not recognise such exposures as harmful, except for the WHO-IARC recognition of power-frequency fields as a "possible human carcinogen". They still argue to play down the statistics of increased cancer under exposure, and to deny a plausible mechanism. But at least they accept the need for precautionary policy, which is what we are working on in the SAGE group.

[1] C R Timmel & K B Henbest, A study of spin chemistry in weak magnetic fields, <Timmel Phil Trans Ma, Ph, Eng, Sci, 362, 2573, 2004.pdf>.

[2] Y Liu et al, Chem Commun 2005, 174-176 (  in press).

[3] Caroline Evans, Toxic Oxygen, Chemistry World, p22, Dec 2004.

[4] G Scott, Antioxidants in science, technology, medicine and nutrition, Albion Chemical Science Series, 1997, Chapters 2, 5 and 6, where the evidence is shown in more detail.


-- Mike O'Carroll




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