The Iowa Utilities Board approved the sale of the state’s only nuclear power plant on a 2-1 vote. Alliant Energy will sell its shares of the Duane Arnold Energy enter near Palo to the Florida-based F-P-L Energy Group.

Board chair John Norris voted for the sale, but says he’d rather see Alliant relicense the plant and retain ownership. Norris says it’s a good reliable source of low-cost power for Iowans and doesn’t do the damage to the environment that coal does, “And we wish they’d taken that course of action (to retain ownership).” But Norris says Alliant did take the proper steps to reorganize their company. Norris says he couldn’t vote against Alliant, even though he thinks there’s a better option.
He says, “At some point you have to draw the line at what government can tell a company it can and can’t do, and I think this is where you have to draw the line.”

Boardmember Diane Munns opposed the sale, saying she fears it will eventually force Alliant customers to pay more money for their electricity. Munns says her concerns are all based on speculation because she says, “Because nobody knows what the issues are going to be in respect to generation supply in the future.” She says she believes the future is in a mix of coal, natural gas and nuclear power.

Consumer advocate John Perkins had issued an opinion against the sale. He says, “I’m disappointed and I think that it means Alliant customers are going to end up paying more for electricity than if Alliant had done the right thing, and the prudent thing and re-licensed it and kept it.” Perkins says he understands why the Utilities Board voted the way it did. He says the board has to make sure the utility industry is healthy and he says there’s some evidence that if Alliant “did the imprudent thing” shut down the plant instead of selling it, there would be some economic consequences. Perkins says the board had to weigh those economic concerns in it’s decision. He says, “Clearly they were troubled by the way Alliant went about this.”

Alliant Energy has said it’s too expensive to operate a single nuclear power plant and that’s why they want to sell to F-P-L — a company which owns six other nuclear plants. Company officials say customers will be protected because the sale allows the company to continue to buy power from Duane Arnould through 2014.