Plans for Iowa’s second nuclear power plant have been dropped by Mid American Energy. No design has been approved for the type of nuclear plant the company had intended, so they have let the idea go. It was reported that ratepayers will be refunded the $8.8 million they paid for a completed feasibility study. Sites not far from Council Bluffs and Davenport were being considered for the plant.
The decreasing cost of natural gas, events at Fukushima and a general suspicion about the safety of nuclear power may have all contributed to the decision to abandon the development of a new nuclear plant. Another factor may have been Iowa’s leading success with wind power development and its continuing investment in that form of clean, renewable energy. Mid-American will focus on its new wind power projects there.
Reactions to the announcement didn’t appear to be that low over the loss of extra nuclear power in the area. Environmentalists were predictably jazzed, “Yay! We are glad to hear that they are planning to expand their wind power. We think that is a better option than nuclear power,” said Neila Seaman, director of the Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club. (Source: Des Moines Register)
Friends of the Earth interpreted the decision more broadly saying it is an indication that massive public subsidies for new nuclear power might not be as popular an idea any longer. A poll of Iowans conducted in 2012 found 77% were against a funding arrangement that would have required residents to have to pay the energy company up front for construction of the nuclear plant. Proposed legislation could have made such an arrangement possible, but it was opposed by a number of non-profit advocacy organizations, so it didn’t go through.
Iowa’s only nuclear plant is located near Cedar Rapids and generates about 615 MW. It began operation in 1974, and uses one General Electric boiling water reactor.