Wednesday 25 July 2012

Residents try to block electricity link to Britain over magnetic-fields fear

A DUBLIN residents group claim a high-voltage electricity connector between Ireland and Britain will not be operated in accordance with its planning permission, the Commercial Court heard.

Rush Community Council Ltd has brought proceedings against Eirgrid over its concerns about the alleged association between a certain type of electro-magnetic fields generated by high voltage power cables and childhood leukaemia.

The council, which accepts that the project represents a vital piece of national infrastructure, claims that the interconnector will be operated in a manner which is not in compliance with its planning permission
Eirgrid, in opposing the proceedings, has denied the council's claims. It submits that the interconnect will be operated in accordance with its planning conditions and that it will comply with international guidelines on electric and magnetic fields as reviewed by the World Health Organisation, the EU and the Government.

The proposed interconnector will connect the power system to the electricity grid in Britain through undersea and underground cables. It is expected to have enough capacity to supply about 350,000 homes and is due to be completed later this year.

The case centres on the route of the interconnector and a section which comes to shore from under the seabed at North Beach in Rush to the Rogerstown estuary and will run close to residential areas in the town.
In its action, the council is seeking an order restraining Eirgrid Plc operating the proposed East West Interconnector in any manner which results in the creation, production or emission of time-varying magnetic fields.
It is also seeking declarations, including that if the interconnector creates any time-varying magnetic field, it is unauthorised development and that no current should be passed through the proposed power line as long as any time-varying magnetic field is generated.

Opening the case yesterday, James Devlin SC, for the council, said that planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanala in September 2009 for what is accepted to be an infrastructural project of significant national importance.

Despite local concerns about health risks to people living in Rush, permission for the project was granted after the Bord conducted an oral hearing.

Counsel said that prior to and during the hearing Eirgrid had maintained that the direct current (DC) carried by the interconnector's cables will flow in only one direction and would only produce a static or non-variable magnetic field.

Mr Devlin added that Eirgrid submitted evidence that it would only carry a direct current the interconnector's cables would produce a magnetic field lower than the naturally occurring background geomagnetic field of the Earth, and that there was no risk to public health or safety.

However, the community council persevered in their efforts for an independent expert to examine the potential health risks of the interconnector. Counsel said it was agreed between the parties that Dutch-based experts KEVA would prepare a report.

In June of 2011 KEVA produced a report that stated that the cable circuit will also generate a time-varying magnetic field due to time varying currents superimposed on the DC current, called the ripple, due to changes in the transported current.

Counsel said that this information came contrary to the reassurances given by Eirgrid to An Bord Pleanala. Counsel added that the residents had health concerns with varying magnetic fields because of their "statistical association" with childhood leukaemia.

As a result of this finding it was the council’s case that the proposed interconnector was going to operated in a manner which approval had not been granted for.

The issue of varying magnetic fields had not been dealt with by Eirgrid during the oral hearing conducted by Bord Pleanala, and Eirgrid had not sought to have the matter referred back to the board for a variation of the approval granted, counsel submitted.

The case before Mr Justice Michael Peart continues.

- Aodhan O'Faolain

Read the article @ The Irish Independent

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