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Milestone for radiation protection in the context of the power grid expansion

BfS launches 18 million Euro research project

Year of issue 2017
Date 2017.07.11

Comparison of the electric and magnetic fields produced by overhead lines and underground cables

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) will conduct a large-scale research programme, supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, in order to intensify investigations into potential adverse health effects of power lines. Planning includes more than 30 schemes and projects. Ms. Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for the Environment, and BfS President Ms. Inge Paulini presented the 18 million Euro project on Tuesday, 11 July 2017, together with a group of experts on the occasion of a symposium in Berlin. The research programme represents a milestone in establishing BfS as a competence centre for radiation protection with respect to the power grid expansion.

"The expansion of the power grids is a key factor for a successful energy transition", said Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter in her opening speech. "When the German citizens ask if the planned high-voltage power lines induce adverse health effects or if such effects can be definitely excluded, we as the State must naturally provide an answer. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection is an independent scientific institution and it is regarded as qualified and trustworthy."

BfS intensifies research into radiation protection with respect to power grid expansion

"So far, there is no proof of a connection between power lines and health hazards. But we don’t rest on these findings because, as in other cases, there is individual scientific evidence regarding health effects", said Ms. Inge Paulini, who heads the Federal Office for Radiation Protection since April 2017. "We constantly review our findings and examine new questions in order to ensure the best possible radiation protection. This way we can help to facilitate objective discussions against the background of the required power grid expansion", added Paulini.

According to current knowledge, the electric and magnetic fields in the vicinity of high voltage power lines do not trigger any direct health threats, provided the limit values are complied with. These values are set out in the 26th Ordinance on the Implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act. However, the existing scientific evidence of adverse health effects from low-frequency magnetic fields that was found in individual cases must be examined. There are also scientific uncertainties with respect to the risk assessment of static electric fields, such as the fields that appear in the vicinity of the planned direct current lines (HGÜ).

BfS has considerable experience in investigating and informing about potential adverse health effects of new technology with respect to radiation protection. In the middle of the 2000s, the Federal Office initiated the German Mobile Telecommunication Research Programme (DMF), which has been the world’s largest initiative in this area so far. The current research scheme also aims at opening discussions on a broad and interdisciplinary scale, if possible, involving both operators and affected individuals. Furthermore, it will be important to ensure long-term operation and financing of the programme.

More Information (in German only)

State of 2017.07.11

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