An Iowa utility company executive is exploring the construction of small nuclear power plants as one way to meet the state’s future energy needs. The president of Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy Company, William Fehrman, told a legislative committee he’s taking a serious look at designs for much smaller reactors.

“If you were to drive by it, it would basically look like a quonset hut, inside a very secure fence,” Fehrman said. The “modular” reactors produce up to 125 megawatts of energy compared to the traditional nuclear facilities that produce 16-hundred. Fehrman says they’re also more affordable.

“They aren’t nearly as cost-prohibitive as building a very large plant and bringing that on-line all at one time,” Fehrman says, “operationally, if the plant would happen to come off-line and quit generating it doesn’t nearly have the impact on our system as large plants.”

Fehrman says two American companies are developing designs for the smaller reactors, but currently there are no examples in operation. He says MidAmerican will complete its study by the fall. Lawmakers have asked utility company executives to assess the future of nuclear power in the state.

The Duane Arnold plant near Palo is Iowa’s only nuclear facility. Fehrman made his comments to the Senate Commerce Committee.