Nuclear Power a Bad Financial Bet for Iowa, New Report Says

Media Contacts
Sonia Ashe

Groups Urge Iowa to Consider More Cost Effective Options

Iowa PIRG Education Fund

Des Moines, IA – A new report documenting the high financial risks of nuclear power was unveiled today by groups advocating that Iowa place its energy bets on other energy sources. The report, The Nuclear Gamble: Why Nuclear Power is a Bad Bet for Iowans, was released after the Legislature shelved a proposal last session to fund new nuclear plants but amid ongoing speculation that utilities and the nuclear industry will resume a push for nuclear power.

“Like addicted gamblers that keep returning to their favorite casinos, MidAmerican Energy continues to push the idea that Iowans need new nuclear power plants,” said Sonia Ashe, advocate the Iowa Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (Iowa PIRG Education Fund), author of the report. “But the utility can’t find investors willing to bet on nuclear power, so they’re forcing ratepayers to risk their money instead.”

MidAmerican Energy is pushing a policy that would fund new nuclear reactors in Iowa by allowing utilities to raise utility rates in advance of construction – forcing ratepayers to shoulder the financial risks of nuclear power, with no guarantee that a nuclear plant will ever reach operation in Iowa.

“We saw the private sector increase their support for the clean energy market by 35 percent in 2010,” added Ashe. “Forcing Iowans to devote their dollars to nuclear power would be a bet on the wrong horse when we’ve already got a winner with wind power.”

Analysis in Iowa PIRG Education Fund report shows that nuclear power is among the most costly approaches to addressing Iowa’s energy needs. Energy efficiency efforts can deliver more than five times the electricity output of nuclear power per dollar invested. Combined heat and power (which generates both useful heat and electricity for a factory, a school campus or an office building) can generate nearly four times more energy than nuclear power per dollar invested, and wind farms can produce as much as 100 percent more electricity than nuclear power for every dollar invested.

“Strapped small business owners, families, and senior citizens across Iowa know that every dollar must be spent wisely,” said local business owner, and representative for Move to Amend, Marybeth Gardam. “Paying an unlimited amount on new and unapproved nuclear power technology, years in advance of construction, with no refund if we don’t see a kilowatt, doesn’t constitute wise spending.”

The report warns that even new nuclear power technology will be subject to conditions that have caused cost estimates for nuclear reactors to more than triple since 2005. The nuclear industry in particular faces a shortage of qualified and experienced engineers, manufacturers, and construction workers. Also, there are only two metal foundries today capable of forging nuclear reactor vessels, and neither are located within the United States.

“Beyond the dollar-for-dollar value of a clean energy portfolio, energy efficiency and wind power offer a safe alternative that drives local investment,” says Mike Carberry, Nuclear Campaign Coordinator with Friends of the Earth. “We can move beyond nuclear energy into a clean energy future by focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energies that will create economic development and homegrown jobs here in Iowa.”

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Iowa PIRG Education Fund is a 501(c)3 organization that works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public, and offer Iowans meaningful opportunities for civic participation. For more information about Iowa PIRG Education Fund or for copies of this report, please visit