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More Nuclear Power in Iowa or Not? It’s Up For Debate

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 By Tim MorrisseyContact
April 12, 2010

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa has only one nuclear power plant, the Duane Arnold plant north of Cedar Rapids, and it generates less than 10 percent of the state's electricity demand. The Iowa Legislature passed a bill which would provide incentives to electric utilities to build more nuclear plants in Iowa, but Governor Chet Culver has not signed it, and there are sharply divided arguments about the future of more nuclear power in the state.

Carrie LaSeur, founder and president of Plains Justice in Cedar Rapids, says there are many choices for generating more electricity, and she thinks nuclear power may not be the best way to go.

"Our position is that nuclear should have to justify itself economically, as well as environmentally, like any other form of power."

John Parkyn, chairman and CEO of Dairyland Power Cooperative, which supplies a good share of Iowa's electricity, thinks that opinions are changing away from the "no nukes" standpoint, and he says people are changing their minds when it comes to blocking the production of more nuclear power.

"Public sentiment no longer favors that. It's a question of getting the politicians behind the public, and then I think you'll see those barriers drop."

There are still deep differences of opinion about the cost, efficiency and safety of nuclear reactors.

LaSeur says that in the current state of the economy, people are particularly willing to learn ways to cut back on their use of power, which would negate the need for more nuclear plants.

"That means reductions in consumption by using energy efficiency and conservation measures that are proven and are far more cost-effective than any of our generation choices."

Parkyn also has no argument with techniques to conserve electricity, but he says that's just not going to be enough, and renewable energy sources are not the answer.

"No matter what techniques you use, you end up inevitably facing the need for more nuclear power rather than less."

Both agree that there are some very tough choices ahead, not just in Iowa, but for the entire nation.

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