MidAmerican scraps nuclear project for Iowa

5 June 2013

MidAmerican Energy is delaying its decision to build a new power station in Iowa, and is planning to refund $8.8 million of the $14 million collected to finance a three-year nuclear feasibility study.

The company said in early June that it would be "premature" to pursue additional site work for any proposed generating option in Iowa, including a nuclear power plant. It blamed the "uncertainty of carbon regulation" and the lengthy regulatory reviews that need to be completed before small modular reactor designs can be built in the United States.

Iowa currently has one operating nuclear power station: Duane Arnold, a 600 MW General Electric type 4 boiling water reactor (BWR) operated by NextEra Energy, which accounted for 7.7% of the state's electricity generation in 2010, according to the latest figures from the US Energy Information Administration.

In its assessment, submitted to the Iowa Utilities Board on 3 June, MidAmerican concluded "there is not an apparent urgency" to proceed with regulatory applications for the deployment of a second nuclear reactor in the state.

It said that over the "next several years" there could be more certainty on environmental regulations for fossil plants, as well as more clarity on SMR licensability and pricing; the latter of which it described as "a critical input" for decision making between potential generating options.

The study, with input from experts NERA Economic Consulting and Sargent & Lundy, found that despite its high up-front costs, the nuclear option could cost $315 million a year less than a natural gas plant for the fifty-year period running 2030-2080, in the most likely energy market scenario. Analysts also found that an SMR could generate between $2.4 billion and $8.8 billion more economic development benefits than a gas facility through 2080.

The study identified a site in Muscatine County is potentially suitable for nuclear deployment, but MidAmerican says it plans to sell of the land it owns in there later this year. It said that further work, such as an early site permit application to the NRC, would take several years and cost up to $50 million. The company has also confirmed it has "no plans" to purchase land in Iowa for nuclear development at this time.

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