Governor Chet Culver has signed legislation that allows Mid American Energy to charge their customers extra to fund a feasibility study for a nuclear power plant. Utility officials say they want to start building a new plant in 2014 to help reduce carbon emissions.

Culver says nuclear power should be part of the state’s renewable energy portfolio and says construction of a new facility will create good paying jobs. “Our energy security is of utmost importance and I am looking forward to helping create those job opportunities across this state and this study bill will allow us to identify the very best parts of the state for a potential nuclear plant,” Culver said.

Iowa currently has one nuclear power plant in the eastern Iowa town of Palo. To pay for the $15 million study, Mid American will charge residential customers an additional $4 a year for the next three years. Commercial customers will pay an additional $15 and industrial customers just over a thousand dollars more per year. Culver says without this legislation, the company could have requested an even bigger rate increase from the Iowa Utilities Board.

“The more alternatives we have, the less dependent we are on more conventional energy options and the lower the rates are going to be,” Culver said. “I’ll put our rates in Iowa, especially related to Mid-American rates, up against any in America. In fact, over the last four years, (Iowa’s rates) have been some of the lowest in the nation.”

Opponents say the bill Culver signed contradicts previous state law that requires utility companies to fund their own feasibility studies. Clean energy advocates held a small protest at the statehouse following Wednesday’s bill signing.