MidAmerican Energy is pushing for new legislation that could result in new nuclear power plants in Iowa. There is currently one nuclear power plant in the state, the Duane Arnold Energy Plant at Palo, near Cedar Rapids. A recent federal study ranked Iowa last in nuclear capacity among the 31 states which have nuclear power plants.

A bill pending in the state senate would order the Iowa Utilities Board to come up with a way for utilities to recover the costs of studying whether Iowa is a good site to build a new nuclear plant. MidAmerican Energy lobbyist John Davis says there’s a lot of leg work to determine if there are appropriate sites in Iowa for a new plant.

“Seismological studies, weather studies, population studies,” Davis says. “All these different things have to be done.” Under a preliminary plan being considered by senators, utility customers would be asked to cover the study’s estimated five-million dollar cost. There are just over 100 nuclear plants operating in the United States today.

According to Davis, the MidAmerican lobbyist, there already are “active” plans to build 22 more and the bill pending in the senate would help utility companies that operate in Iowa consider building here. “This just allows to not even go to the active development stage, but to get to the preliminary stage of finding out if we’re in the right place,” Davis says. A representative of Alliant Energy says nuclear power should be an option now that plans for a new coal-powered plant in Marshalltown have failed.