The Energy and Water Resources Ministry objects to limiting the radiation level at electrical facilities, despite recommendations by the health and environmental protection ministries. The energy ministry and Israel Electric Corporation (IEC ) say there is no justification for restricting the radiation level, a move which would cost billions of shekels.
The health and environmental protection ministries say the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended setting a top radiation level, intended to reduce the danger to human life.
"The WHO's recommendation is intended to prevent public exposure to radiation levels that could raise the risk of leukemia in children," says Prof. Sigal Sadetzki, the Health Ministry's radiation adviser and director of the cancer unit at the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research at the Sheba Medical Center.
In recent debates on implementing the law to prevent nonionizing (nonradioactive) radiation, the health and environmental protection ministries demanded to restrict the radiation to a 4-milligauss magnetic field, first in new installations and at a later stage in existing ones as well.
In June, the IEC's radiation permits will expire and the Environmental Protection Ministry demands setting new permits restricting the radiation level.
In general, the Israeli public's exposure to radiation is below 4 milligauss, but there have been cases - such as near a high voltage line in Or Akiva - in which a radiation of over 30 milligauss was measured in nearby apartment buildings.
Two months ago, IEC board chairman Yiftach Ron-Tal asked Energy and Water Resources Minister Uzi Landau to stop the move to limit the radiation level. He said an experts committee appointed by the government recommended reducing the magnetic field intensity by acceptable means and within reasonable costs, without setting a radiation limit.
Ron-Tal said the costs of restricting the radiation level would cost more than NIS 10 billion. "If we don't stick to the permitted radiation level we'll be committing a criminal offense, and if we cannot apply a solution there will be power cuts," he wrote.
Following this request, Landau told Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan not to set an obligatory radiation limit in the permits.
Environmental Protection Ministry officials said that without Landau and the finance minister's consent, it would not be possible to set a top radiation limit.
The Energy and Water Resources Ministry said the Environmental Protection Ministry was acting contrary to the recommendations of professional international organizations.
"It's true the risk of exposure to radiation over 4 milligauss is rare," says Sadetzki. "But unless we limit radiation, if it turns out there is a risk, we will be blamed for not protecting the public's health."
The Environmental Protection Ministry said it was acting on the Health Ministry's recommendations.
The Health Ministry said: "The recommendation for an obligatory limit was made on the basis of studies showing that exposing children to radiation of over 4 milligauss on average in a day or two days is a risk factor in developing leukemia."
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