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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Vote No on Nuclear Study Bill

Over the past few months we've asked for your help in achieving federal energy reform. Thank you so much! Unfortunately, powerful interests continue to block any progress in Congress. So, we need to shape our energy future right here in Iowa right now.

The Iowa Senate is considering SF 2314/HF 2399, legislation that would require MidAmerican Energy to conduct a feasibility study on nuclear power using ratepayer money. Though it also provides incentives for utilities to switch existing coal-fired power plants to other fuel sources, it does nothing to increase energy efficiency or renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

The Iowa Senate may debate the bill today.

We've done the research – nuclear is a wasteful, ineffective approach to our energy and climate crises. Iowa needs to prioritize clean, domestic energy sources that will help businesses, farmers, and homeowners now – wind energy, solar energy, energy efficiency. 

Contact your state senator today and tell him or her to vote no on SF 2314/HF 2399 unless it is balanced with policies to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

You can find your senator and contact info here. If you know your legislator, you can call the Senate switchboard: (515) 281-3371.

Contact:
Eric Nost, Environment Iowa
enost@environmentiowa.org

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The Marshalltown coal plant is dead

Here’s some good news for the environment and public health:  

Interstate Power and Light on Thursday canceled plans for a $1.8 billion coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown, citing the economy and uncertainty over state regulations. […]  

“At the end of the day it’s economic condition, uncertainly regarding future regulatory and legislative treatment of environmental issues, meaning greenhouses gases,” said spokesman Ryan Steensland.

Other factors were terms placed on the power plant by the Iowa Utilities Board, including a 10.1 return on equity for investors. “It would have made it very challenging to attract the capital necessary to build these types of investments. The cost and the return laid out by the board just did not wet the appetite of the investment community to move forward with this project,” Steensland said.

 

Economic concerns prompted a different company to pull the plug on a proposed coal-fired power plant near Waterloo earlier this year.

Thanks to all the environmental and public-health advocates who have worked so hard for years to defeat both coal plants, including the Sierra Club, Plains Justice, the Iowa Environmental Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Community Energy Solutions, the Iowa Renewable Energy Association and Iowa Interfaith Power and Light.  

I am still annoyed that the Iowa Utilities Board approved an application to build the Marshalltown plant last spring, but at least the IUB’s recent ratemaking decision helped doom the project.

Please disregard my action alert regarding public comments on the DNR’s draft air quality permit for the Marshalltown plant.

UPDATE: At Century of the Common Iowan, noneed4thneed points out that the coal plant would have created 85 permanent jobs as well as providing a lot of temporary jobs during its construction. I sympathize with people who are upset about losing those jobs. However, I do not support making a 50-year investment in the wrong direction on energy production, which would also result in more respiratory illness, mercury pollution and higher utility bills for thousands of Iowans, all for the sake of some jobs in the Marshalltown area.  

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