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Proponents of nuclear bill say amendment would prevent dramatic rate increases

BY LOGAN EDWARDS | MARCH 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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Proponents of an Iowa Senate bill that would expand the state's nuclear power say certain measures would prevent dramatic increases in energy rates, despite some consumer concerns.

The bill, House File 561, would allow the Iowa Utilities Board to investigate the construction of the state's second nuclear-power plant.

Tim Grabinski, the vice president of communications services at MidAmerican Energy, said some MidAmerican consumers were concerned rates would dramatically increase as a result of the potential plant's construction.

Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, a member of the Commerce Committee, said the committee will discuss an amendment to the bill today that would provide more consumer protection.

The amendment, however, states consumers won't be charged until the plan is in action, Grabinski said.

"We just want to reiterate that this bill — if passed — does not give us the approval or mean that we are definitely going to build a nuclear plant in Iowa — it just simply keeps the option open for nuclear energy to be an option for Iowa," Grabinski said.

McCoy said the board will make the decision on if the company may build a facility.

"[Companies] would have about six months to get their operation up and running before they have to move forward and make a great case to the Iowa Utilities Board," McCoy said.

Don Tormey, the manager of customer service and communications for the Iowa Utilities Board, said officials don't have a stance on the issue.

"Iowa Utilities Board is and always has been neutral on the nuclear bill," he said. "The [board] supports a mix of cost effective electric generations to meet future energy needs, and nuclear energy is one of the options to be considered."

But Anthony Carroll, the state director for advocacy at the AARP, said the bill is still bad for consumers.

"In the amended version, there are still no caps on costs to consumers, and the utility company can still recover all accumulated costs even if a potential plant is not completed," Carroll said in the release.

A similar bill was initially proposed last year and passed the House, but it died in the Senate.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan in January 2011, University of Iowa President Sally Mason expressed interest in the potential role the UI could play in Iowa's nuclear-energy future.

UI physics Professor Emeritus Edwin Norbeck said Iowa should turn to nuclear power plants for energy.

"A second nuclear power plant in Iowa would be a good idea to guarantee that we have energy in the future," he said.

The only nuclear power plant in Iowa is the Duane Arnold Energy Center, located near Palo.

"It's been giving power reliability for years now," Norbeck said.

Norbeck said despite the costly price to construct a nuclear power plant, the upkeep is relatively cheap.

"I think we should certainly work to get a nuclear-power plant in Iowa, but it needs to be done with a certain amount of care to make sure someone isn't breaking off a lot of money for no reason," Norbeck said.


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