NextEra Energy has announced plans to close the Duane Arnold Energy Center (DAEC), five years ahead of schedule. DAEC is Iowa’s only nuclear power plant and is located eight miles northwest of Cedar Rapids. The nuclear power plant commenced operation in 1975 and currently has a net power output of 615 MW.
NextEra Energy Resources is the majority owner and operator of DAEC. Central Iowa Power Cooperative owns 20% and the Corn Belt Power Cooperative owns 10% of the nuclear power plant. Next Energy Resources is electric utility, headquartered in Juno Beach, Florida. Central Iowa Power Cooperative is Iowa’s largest cooperative energy provider and is headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Corn Belt Power Cooperative is an electric power company, headquartered in Humboldt, Iowa.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had licensed DAEC to operate until 2034. NextEra reached agreement with Alliant Energy Corporation to shorten the power purchase agreements for DAEC. Alliant Energy was the largest buyer of power from DAEC. The shortened power purchase agreement allowed NextEra to schedule the closure of DAEC in 2020.
NextEra and Alliant Energy have signed a new power purchase agreement for new wind farms. NextEra plans to invest approximately $650 million in renewable power facilities in Iowa by 2020. The move from nuclear energy to renewable energy is estimated to save Alliant’s Iowa customers approximately $300 million over the next twenty years.
Nuclear power capacity has slowly declined as plants have been closed or retired. In 1990, there were 132 operating nuclear reactors in the United States. Today, there are 99 operating nuclear reactors. DAEC and seven additional nuclear reactors are scheduled to begin the decommissioning process by 2025.
Why are nuclear power stations closing? Primarily cost. The average cost of electricity from nuclear power is 35 cents per kWh. The average cost of natural gas, hydropower and wind energy is now 3 to 4 cents per kWh. Although nuclear reactors don’t emit greenhouse gases, the cost for hydropower, wind and solar is significantly cheaper. Also, hydropower, wind and solar energy don’t offer the risk of radiation from a nuclear accident.