Governor Branstad says it would unwise for legislators to table a bill that would outline the initial financing guidelines for a new nuclear power plant in Iowa. 

“It’s a big project and it’s a long-range project so it would be preferable — I think the House has passed it — it would be preferable if the Senate would take action on it before they leave so we can move forward,” Branstad told reporters early this afternoon.

MidAmerican Energy has been lobbying legislators to pass the bill this year. Key lawmakers who’ve been working on the bill were at the Iowa Energy Forum today  in Des Moines. Both Branstad and MidAmerican Energy president Bill Fehrman were featured speakers at the event. According to Fehrman, as the country shifts away from coal-powered power plants, wind and solar power cannot provide the around-the-clock electricity that natural gas-fired plants and nuclear power can provide. 

“There’s no perfect way to generate electricity. All ways of generating electricity have their pros and their cons,” Fehrman said. “But the fact of the matter is if you look back in history, having a very diverse mix of fuel, keeping ahead of the curve, really has resulted in the best outcome.” 

Fehrman characterized the proposed nuclear power plant as “planning ahead” to ensure Iowa electric customers don’t wind up with the kind of rates residents on the east and west coast pay today. Critics of the bill pending in the Iowa Senate say MidAmerican customers would bear too much of the risk of building the new plant. Others question the safety of nuclear power.

“The plants that are operating today were designed back 40 years ago, 50 years ago — in many cases, perhaps, with slide rules — and today’s plants take all of those lessons learned and have put in place extreme safety measures to ensure that these plants are operable. They’re nearly walk-away safe and I’m very comfortable with them,” Fehrman said this afternoon while answering a question from the audience. “I’ve spent a lot of my career in nuclear power. I’m very confident that it’s a energy resources that needs to be continued into the future and it needs to be an option.”

One of the ironies of the Iowa Energy Forum was the Des Moines hotel which hosted the event was without power this morning. Electricity was restored less than two hours before the event began, prompting organizers to drop plans to serve a hot lunch to the audience.  Sandwiches and chips were served instead.