The Iowa state Senate has voted to allow utility MidAmerican Energy to increase electric consumer rates so that it can study the feasibility of constructing a nuclear power plant.
A vote of 37-13 in favour has allowed a $4 per year increase in residential customers' electricity bills, with a $15 increase for commercial customers and $1100 for industrial customers. Over three years the additional funds, totalling $15 million, will be used by MidAmercian to finance a study into the feasibility of constructing a second nuclear power plant in the state. The study will be reviewed annually by the Iowa Utilities Board.
The bill states that, "It is the intent of the general assembly to require certain rate-regulated public utilities to undertake analyses of and preparations for the possible construction of nuclear generating facilities in this state that would be beneficial in a carbon-constrained environment."
The bill also says that a rate-regulated utility can recover "the reasonable and prudent costs of its analyses of and preparations for the possible construction" of nuclear power plants.
MidAmerican, an investor-owned regulated utility, is subject to a rate freeze until 2013 because of an agreement with the utilities board. The company - over 80% owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which itself is chaired by billionaire Warren Buffet - has not increased its rates since 1995. MidAmerican has 6.2 million electricity customers.
The bill now goes to Governor Chet Culver to be signed into legislation.
MidAmerican had previously proposed constructing a nuclear power plant in Payette County, Idaho. However, in December 2007, it announced that it had decided not to proceed. At that time, the company said that its decision was "based on economic considerations and not on issues related to the suitability of the Idaho site."
Iowa currently has one operating nuclear power plant: the single-unit Duane Arnold plant owned by NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of Florida Power and Light (FPL). The 580 MWe boiling water reactor supplies almost 10% of the state's electricity, while coal supplies just under 77%.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News