The Hawkeye State Closing Lone Nuclear Power Plant

The current population of the “Hawkeye State,” Iowa is estimated to be 3.18 million. In February 2019, state utilities used coal (45.8%), renewable energy (36.8%), natural gas (9.8%) and nuclear energy (7.6%) to generate electricity. Hydropower and solar are the primary types of renewable energy in Iowa.

Iowa’s move of renewable energy offsets the high cost for coal and nuclear energy. In February 2019, the average cost of electricity in Iowa was U.S. 11.63 ¢ per kWh, which is the 32nd most expensive price in the United States. The average price of electricity in the United States is 12.5 ¢ per kWh.

Over the past decade, Iowa utilities have moved from coal fueled power plants to renewable energy. The move from coal fueled power plants to wind farms and solar parks has been prompted by the high cost of fossil fuel and concerns about climate change. Iowa’s lone nuclear plant is now scheduled to be closed due to high operating costs.

NextEra Energy has announced that the Duane Arnold Energy Center, Iowa’s lone nuclear power plant will be closed in 2020. The nuclear power plant has been in operation since 1974. However, the cost to generate electricity from the 600 MW Duane Arnold Energy Center is now significantly higher than renewable energy, natural gas or even coal.

NextEra estimates that closing the Duane Arnold Energy Center will save over $300 million over the next 21 years. The company anticipates replacing the power produced from the nuclear reactor with new, wind and/or solar projects. NextEra is a major utility with operation in the United States and Canada. The company is headquartered in Juno Beach, Florida and has over 5 million customers in North America.

I understand the economics behind closing the Duane Arnold Energy Center. However, nuclear power plants generate zero greenhouse gas emissions. In my opinion, the most prudent course of action would be to replace existing coal-fueled power plants with new wind and/or solar projects. I would only close the Duane Arnold Energy Center, when all the fossil fuel power plants were closed in the state of Iowa.

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