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Revolt News 129

15/102002

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Revolt News 129

1. The energy market "is bust" according to Powergen Chief Executive Dr Paul Golby (Ceefax202, 9.10.02). He says the system is unsustainable. Electricity prices are less than the cost of generating it. Powergen is therefore to mothball two power stations later this week. They are the oil-fired Grain plant in Kent and part of the large Killingholme power station in Lincolnshire (South Humberside). Powergen has 1700 MW capacity of new CCGT (gas turbine) plant at Killingholme, comparable with the "Enron" station at Teesside. Powergen had 900MW commissioned at Killingholme in 1992 (Enron Teesside was 1993) and a further 800MW only last year. The present problems arise from the high price of gas, the low price of electricity and over-capacity in generation. What chance, then, that the speculative development of more surplus power stations north of Picton, on which the case for the Picton-Shipton line depends, will ever happen?

2. More on the Powergen story from the Telegraph 10.10.02. Chief Exec Dr Paul Golby says "we have grasped the nettle and I do not expect these plants to come back". He added that while the price of electricity had fallen to crisis levels, the price of gas had doubled over the past year. "There is not one gas powered plant in the country that is capable of making a profit at these prices" he said. That would include the "Enron" Teesside plant.

3. Powergen's crisis could get much worse. Apparently, it has not made provision for the potentially expensive risk of harm to health from powerlines being confirmed. Powergen is now owned by Eon, a multinational company trading on the New York stock exchange, which requires it to declare such risks. Watch this space!

4. Powergen owns East Midlands Electricity and its 132kV distribution lines, where it ran into conflict with the McCormick family over a wayleave in Northampton. The previous owner of the land had agreed a voluntary wayleave. Unlike compulsory wayleaves, it is not "binding on successors". The McCormicks were asked to grant a wayleave but refused on health grounds. Powergen offered rental payments relating to the existing wayleave, but the McCormicks refused to accept them - just as well, as it came out in the hearing that acceptance of payment would enable the company to claim an "implied wayleave". You can see how sinister NG's cheques sent to objecting landowners on the Yorkshire line could be! In the course of the hearings the McCormicks offered a wayleave on condition that the company guarantees its equipment is safe; the company refused to give a guarantee. Secretary of State granted the compulsory wayleave, on the recommendation of the DTI inspector, but the family may make further complaints.

5. Large article in the Sunday Telegraph 6.10.02 is headlined "New evidence links power lines and cancer". There isn't anything really new, and it refers to the California Dept Health report which was available as a draft last year and which was then expected soon in final form (which is now published in the last few days, see item 7 below). Sunday Times did a piece "Power lines linked to cancer" on 6.10.02. The Observer is also contacting us about an article and a photographer for Yorkshire Post has been busy.

6. Now here's a good news story. Two new pylons in Shropshire are to be removed because they didn't have proper planning permission, according to the Shropshire Star 18.9.02. Amazingly the company Aquila Networks (formerly MEB) had not applied for permission. Telford & Wrekin Council refused their retrospective planning application, and the pylons are to be removed between October and March. Under-grounding is to cost over a million pounds. For details see:

 http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/september02/18th/pylons.asp 

7. The final version of the California Health Dept EMF report is now available and can be found from Denis Henshaw's Bristol University web site http://www.electric-fields.bris.ac.uk/ . Another interesting site linking to it is  http://www.energyfields.org/   from the CWTI (Council on Wireless Technology Impacts).

8. Microwave News July/Aug 2002 had an advance copy of the California report and described it as the "strongest health warning yet". See http://www.microwavenews.com . The report's authors are "inclined to believe" that EMFs are a cause of childhood leukaemia, adult brain cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and miscarriages. Other points from Microwave News: 
(a) The German government is promoting low-emission phones and endorsing a precautionary approach.
(b) An apparent conflict in EMF breast cancer results appears to be resolved in terms of genetic variability, so Loscher's results showing EMFs promote breast cancer in rats is not countered by negative results obtained with different strains of rats, and in turn the NIEHS finding that there is "strong evidence" that EMFs do not promote breast cancer is wrong. An article is titled "How to do science: Loscher teaches Americans a lesson". It's about testing ideas until you understand what's going on, not trying to counter results with different results (or worse, angry rhetoric).
(c) The magazine reports the saga of NRPB's impetuous dismissal of Li's miscarriage research and the subsequent criticism of NRPB by Denis Henshaw and myself, pointing out how Li had already dealt with the points raised by NRPB. NRPB then quickly and quietly moderated its comments on the web site but concealed the fact that they had been moderated, with the result that the original (mistaken and severe) comments have "taken on a life of their own" and been circulated by U.S. electricity utilities.
(d) The position of the WHO on precaution is clarified. First, on mobile phones, the Director General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, has a personal view in favour of precaution but supports the WHO EMF Project which disagrees but calls for more research. Second, on power-frequency EMFs, the WHO EMF project endorsed a policy of prudent avoidance last year and this remains the policy, yet it rejects application of the precautionary principle. What's the difference (between prudent avoidance and the precautionary principle)? On 3.10.01 the WHO advised that decisions on siting power lines should "consider ways to reduce people's exposures" and "safe and low-cost ways to reduce exposures" should be offered to the public. But they see "no need for any specific protective measures" for the general public. WHO seem to distinguish prudent avoidance (as voluntary, discretionary and low-cost) from the precautionary principle (as specific required measures). As both policies are essentially to be commensurate with the level of evidence, it is perhaps an artificial and muddled distinction.
(e) A number of new research papers are briefly reviewed, some relating power-frequency EMFs to direct effects on DNA.
(f) The two Minneapolis suburbs, Sunfish Lake and Mendota Heights, have dropped their opposition to Xcel's planned upgrade of a power line to 230 kV, after the courts ruled against them. The Power Line Task Force continues to fight the upgrade.

9. Denis Henshaw reports the paper by Fews et al has appeared in Atmospheric Research 63 (2002) 271-289 (see also news123.15(a). Denis draws attention to Li et al, SLEEP 25(4), 428-432, 2002 and to Burch et al, J. Occup & Env Med 42(2) 136-142, both of which add to the evidence of effects of EMF on melatonin, the latter especially in respect of 3-phase systems and circularly polarised fields, implying that powerlines may be of particular concern.

10. Rosalind Craven has received a letter dated 11.10.02 to say that proceedings will be commenced next week in the High Court in Leeds to seek an injunction to allow NG onto her land. She will be served with a draft injunction order and will have an opportunity to put her case to the High Court. She is preparing her defence.

Mike O'Carroll

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