The state’s largest utility company has completed its nuclear feasibility study and decided to not move to the next stage and pursue a new nuclear plant in Iowa. The study began in 2010 to find out three things: if there were viable sites in Iowa for nuclear plants, the safety of new nuclear technology, and the cost of building new plants compared to natural gas plants.
MidAmerican vice president of regulatory affairs,Dean Crist, says the study answered all of the questions. “We did find viable sites in Iowa, the most highly-ranked sites — one was in Fremont County, one was in Muscatine County — so we did answer that question for the state. Also, in looking at the new technology, it looks like the new technology is safer than the current technology and it has a lot of aspects to it that would lend itself to be in a good baseload plan,”according to Crist.
He says they also found a nuclear plant could compete with a natural gas plant if a carbon tax is in place. Crist says they looked at all those factors in deciding whether to take the next step.
“What we chose to do at the end here is to pause while environmental regulations take on more certainty — so we know what those are — natural gas prices, those sort of things. We feel it is appropriate to end the study now and not continue on with further development at this time,” Crist says.
Crist says it will likely be several years before the company makes any decision on building either a new natural gas or nuclear plant.
“I think it’ll be closer to the end of this decade before we decide what to build,” Crist says. “As we get more clarity around environmental regulations, as we get more clarity around natural gas supplies and related costs, all that will feed into the analysis of what’s best interest of customers.”
The legislation approving the study allowed MidAmerican to collect money from customers to fund the study. Crist says the decision they have made will mean a refund to customers. “So we are going to stop collecting the half-a-percent to fund the study beginning July one, so customers during the heavy energy use months will not see that added onto their bill. And we are also going to refund a significant portion of what we collected because we were able to complete it sooner, and complete the studies in a more cost efficient manner,” he explains.
They will begin refunding of 8.8-million of the over $14-million in funding collected beginning in August of this year and running through July of next year. Crist says the study itself generated a lot of comments from Muscatine and Fremont counties that were both positive and negative about locating a nuclear plant in those areas.
But, he says those did not factor into their decision, as they stuck with answering the three questions about feasibility.
“Certainly appreciate everyone that provided comments, in the end the assessment answered those three questions and did get into further analysis of how acceptable a community might be to a plant. That would be in further analysis if you would proceed to construct a plant,” Crist says.
The company will not buy any land in Iowa at this time to develop a nuclear generation facility, and MidAmerican Energy will let land options it had in Fremont County expire.
You can see the full study at: www.midamericanenergy.com