Nuclear cancellation in Florida is warning to Iowa legislators

This post is from a press release written by Friends of the Earth.

News that Florida utility Progress Energy plans to cancel the construction contract for its proposed nuclear reactors in Levy County — and will leave customers with a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars — should convince Iowa legislators to finally abandon a proposal by MidAmerican Energy that could bilk consumers across Iowa, said Friends of the Earth.

“Allowing advance rate increases for nuclear reactors has turned into a nightmare for Florida consumers, and Iowa legislators need to heed this warning,” said Mike Carberry, nuclear campaigner in Iowa for Friends of the Earth. “If we can’t learn the lessons of history then we are doomed to repeat them.”

In 2006, the Florida legislature passed a bill that allowed investor-owned utilities to charge ratepayers for construction costs for new nuclear reactors before they were built and producing electricity. So far, Progress Energy has spent $1.1 billion on planning and development for the Levy nuclear project. Progress’ ratepayers had already footed $545 million of this bill through the end of 2011 and they will be forced to pay the remaining $555 million, despite the increasing possibility the reactors will never be constructed.

The Iowa Legislature is currently considering similar legislation (HF 561) that would allow MidAmerican Energy to force Iowa consumers to foot the bill in advance for nuclear reactors, and let MidAmerican keep the money regardless of whether they are ever constructed. A recent analysis of an amended version of the House bill by the Iowa Utilities Board staff confirmed that this bill fails to protect consumers and actually creates incentives for utilities to behave in a manner contrary to the public interest.

“Iowa senators must stand up for the public and reject MidAmerican’s attempt to fleece consumers,” said Carberry.

The Iowa Senate Commerce Committee will again take up HF 561 on Tuesday, January 31. Friends of the Earth is asking the committee to protect the consumers of Iowa by rejecting the bill.


One response to “Nuclear cancellation in Florida is warning to Iowa legislators

  1. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s Christmas gift to the nuclear industry went mostly unheralded. WSJ: The “U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave final approval to Westinghouse Electric Co.’s newest reactor design Thursday, December 22nd, clearing a path for the sale of the reactors in the U.S. and a revival of domestic nuclear power construction… Currently, U.S. utilities are seeking permission to build about a dozen of the AP1000 reactors, far more than any other reactor type in the U.S.”

    The trillion dollar question is are they safe?

    WSJ: Westinghouse’s director of nuclear licensing said… improvements were made as a result of concerns expressed by critics. “We had a lot of smart people look at it. We think what we did was more than good enough.”

    A prominent technical expert at the NRC, Dr. John Ma, challenged Westinghouse’s analysis of shield building strength, as well as the views of the commission’s other staff. He asserted that “structural integrity cannot be assured” if the shield were hit by a tornado, earthquake or any of several other known hazards “because it has not been demonstrated that the building can absorb and dissipate energy.”

    Never mind the cost overruns, the question of disposal of the radioactive waste, the difficulty in decommissioning reactors, the inability to insure these facilities, and–God forbid–an accidental occurrence even 30 years down the road.

    My feeling? It’s an awfully expensive and unnecessarily radical way to heat water when other great options exist. To its credit, MidAmerican just bought two solar operations in Arizona and California, and may be up to 25% of generated electricity through wind technologies by year’s end.

    The part about this legislation I don’t understand is waiving the cost analysis in comparison to other energy options. If the price tag is in the same ball park, why not expand more renewable technologies like wind and solar?

    John Collins, associate chair of the Sustainable Living Dept at MUM in Fairfield talks with me about the bills and the issues on solar-powered Mon Jan 30 at 12:05pm. The segment re-airs Fri Feb 3 at 2:05pm CT.

    James Moore
    KRUU-FM station manager
    Co-host of the Dream Green series