Senator Hogg: Nuclear Power Bill A “Radical Departure” For Iowa

Two letters in the Des Moines Register are right on target about the bill now being considered in the Iowa legislature (House File 561) that will force taxpayers to fund a MidAmerican Energy study to assess the feasibility of a nuclear power plant that may never be built. 

Contact your legislator today if you oppose this bill.
Contact Sen. Matt McCoy:
  Cell Phone: 515.681.9327    E-mail:  
Contact Governor Branstad:  Phone: 515.281.5211

Looming Tragedy

Who is state Sen. Matt McCoy, chairperson of the Senate Commerce Committee?

He is surprisingly insensitive and lacking in compassion, pushing MidAmerican Energy’s nuclear power bill, House File 561, while the world is grieving over Fukushima’s nuclear disaster. Japan lost 7 million acres of mostly agricultural land.

McCoy seems unaware that a 2011 fire at the Fort Calhoun reactor bordering Iowa in Nebraska is labeled a “serious threat” by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and that the plant is still not operating. It was headlines the same day that McCoy’s committee sent HF561 to full Senate debate.

Has he been informed that the Register is pleading for Iowa to first find out if people want nuclear power, then work on the financing?

Why is he ignoring Iowa as a top producer of wind electricity in the U.S. with the potential of providing all of Iowa’s electrical needs if only we transmitted it to where it’s needed?

McCoy was recently quoted saying, “If the proposed deal lacks broad support from both parties, Democrats will not call it up for debate.” Perhaps he and others have missed the Senate switchboard calls running hundreds opposing for every one call in favor of HF 561.

McCoy portrayed this bill as “setting Iowa’s energy policy for the next 50-100 years.” He’s right. Going nuclear is the most expensive. Besides, with MidAmerican guaranteed a large rate of return, and with the customers forced to pay upfront, chances for the alternatives are wiped out.

What a looming tragedy for Iowa.

— Jane E. Magers, Des Moines


Radical Departure

Regardless of whether Iowans support nuclear power, the current nuclear ratepayer financing proposal in the Iowa Legislature (House File 561) would be a financial disaster for consumers and the state.

The bill would shift the severe financial risks associated with nuclear plants from the owners of a utility to utility customers.

HF 561 would allow MidAmerican Energy to recover the costs of licensing, permitting and constructing a nuclear plant from its customers as it incurs those costs, rather than waiting until the plant is put in operation — as has been done with every other Iowa power plant. Although there have been claims recently about amendments to the bill that allegedly protect consumers, none affect this fundamental change in state law.

Why is this radical departure from current law being proposed?

Wall Street won’t invest in nuclear plants. It is too risky. That is why MidAmerican wants the Legislature to shift the risk onto customers. But if nuclear is too risky for investors on Wall Street, then it is too risky for utility customers, working families, farmers, small businesses, and seniors on fixed incomes.

Customers should not be forced to pay billions for nuclear licensing, permitting and construction. Customers should pay for electricity generated, not risky investments.

Nuclear plants are well known for years of delay and billion-dollar cost overruns. No new nuclear plant has been built in this country since the 1970s. In fact, more than half of the 259 nuclear plants ever ordered in this country were either cancelled before operation or prematurely shut down.

If the plant proposed by MidAmerican were cancelled or shut down, there would be no refund to customers, yet MidAmerican would be allowed to keep its profits on the money spent and recovered from customers. MidAmerican will profit from simply trying to build a nuclear plant, something that would take years to accomplish and may never be finished.

Nuclear would not help Iowa’s economy. Nuclear proposals require expensive out-of-state consultants for design, licensing, and permitting. These costs alone could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The size and cost of state government — again paid for by customers — would be forced to grow just so state agencies could review any proposal.

MidAmerican’s proposed small modular nuclear reactor would not produce any more electricity than a small modular biomass, biogas or cogeneration power plant — all of which can be built without the severe financial risk of nuclear.

Polls show that more than 70 percent of Iowans oppose House File 561. Now is the time for Iowans to stand up and make their voices heard. Iowans should call their state legislators and Gov. Terry Branstad and ask them to say no to House File 561.

— State Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids


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