Iowa Consumers Forced to Make Risky Investment in Nuclear

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 9, 2010                                          
Contact: Eric Nost, Environment Iowa
515-243-5835 | enost@environmentiowa.org

The Iowa Senate voted 37-13 Tuesday afternoon to allow Mid-American Energy to investigate the feasibility of building new nuclear reactors in the state. The utility wants to hike its rates – for the first time in over a decade – by $15 million in order to pay for the study.

Environment Iowa state associate Eric Nost issued a statement in response, “Nuclear power is a not a proven solution to our environmental and economic crises. We call on leaders at all levels of government to invest in what we know works – clean, homegrown energy.

“Energy efficiency and wind and solar energy can create jobs when we need them – now.”

At the federal level, Congress and the President are debating similar proposals from utilities that would dole out massive federal loan guarantees for the construction of new reactors. President Obama recently announced the first of the loans would go to two new plants in Georgia.

The Congressional Budget Office expects half of all loans made to nuclear reactors will default.

Iowans will not only be paying more on utility bills, but their federal tax forms, too, if the nuclear industry is successful in getting these kinds of bailouts,” Nost said.

Environment Iowa released a report, Generating Failure, in December that analyzed
the role, under a best-case scenario, that nuclear power could play in reducing emissions. Key findings of the report include:

  • To avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, the U.S. needs to cut power plant emissions roughly in half over the next 10 years.
  • Nuclear power is too slow to contribute to this effort. No new reactors are now under construction and building a single reactor could take 10 years or longer, while costing billions of dollars.
  • Even if the nuclear industry somehow managed to build 100 new nuclear reactors by 2030, nuclear power could reduce total U.S. emissions over the next 20 years by only 12 percent.

In contrast to building new nuclear plants, efficiency and renewable energy can immediately and significantly reduce electricity consumption and carbon emissions. The report found that:

  • Efficiency programs are already cutting electricity consumption by 1-2 percent annually in leading states, and the wind industry is already building the equivalent of three nuclear reactors per year in wind farms, many of which are in Iowa.
  • Building 100 new reactors would require an up-front investment on the order of $600 billion dollars – money which could cut at least twice as much carbon pollution by 2030 if invested in clean energy. Taking into account the ongoing costs of running the nuclear plants, clean energy could deliver 5 times more pollution-cutting progress per dollar.
  • Nuclear power is not necessary to provide carbon-free electricity for the long haul. The need for base-load power is exaggerated and small-scale, local energy solutions can actually enhance the reliability of the electric grid

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Environment Iowa is a state-based, citizen-funded advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.

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