Upon closely examining the Japanese failure that was affected by the disaster, two things have come to light. The first is that the reactors survived the earthquake itself. No structural damage was detected as a result of one of the most severe earthquakes ever recorded, 9.0. The shock waves created by movement resulting in an overlap of over 13 feet of the earth’s geo plates did not affect the nuclear plant. The engineering design had successfully addressed the shock waves.
What the engineers failed to address was protecting the facility from the tsunami, the 31 foot wall of water that rushed ashore wiping out entire cities resulting in 10,000 persons dead and 19,000 still missing. As the water surged into the nuclear facility shutting down its power, the emergency generators used to continue to cool the water in which the radioactive rods are stored were suddenly under water and unable to function. This put the nuclear reactors at risk. If those generators had been installed on the roof of the plant, rather than on the ground, we wouldn’t be confronted with the potential disaster.
This year, the Iowa Legislature has been examining the feasibility of building a next-generation nuclear power plant in Iowa. Safety concerns are utmost in our minds. Even though we have no threat of a tsunami here in Iowa, water is still an issue in the safety of the plant. Nuclear power plants are always built near water that provides cooling needs of the facility. Protection from floods is imperative in the design of a new nuclear facility in our state.
The Iowa House will debate House File 561, which is the next step in the process to see if bringing new technology to Iowa is the right approach for meeting the state’s needs for electricity over the next 50 years.
Why nuclear rather than other forms of power generation being considered? Coal, which has been our major producer of electricity in the past, is expected to eventually be phased out. As it sits now, federal regulations will require the use of clean coal technology in 2015. Eleven coal fired plants will close across the country. A new coal fired plant for Iowa was rejected in recent years. Solar power at 33 cents per kwh is over three times the cost of nuclear’s ten cents per kwh. The cost of natural gas is 15 to 32 cents per kwh, but would serve our citizens better if used for heating our homes, rather than the production of electricity. Wind is the cheapest at nine cents per kwh but is unreliable, only producing electricity 30 percent of the time. The form of energy production that we choose must be able to consistently produce power at all times to sustain the power grid.
With the recent near-disaster in Japan, many are asking, “What’s the hurry? What’s wrong with waiting a year?”
It is in the best interests of consumers to act now. The U.S. Department of Energy is moving forward in 2011 to competitively award $400-500 million for the development of the type of small modular reactor that MidAmerican is considering. The Iowa project could be potentially eligible for $200 million. The bill specified that any amount received will be directly credited to the customers’ costs of the generating plant.
It is important to remember that the EPA this month handed down rules for the handling of mercury and fine particulate that the agency itself predicts will shut down 17% of all coal-fired generation plants nationally and add four to five dollars a month to residential customers’ energy bills. Please note that this is just the first of many regulations that are planned for coal plants and there are a number of other rules pending which could require even more controls, such as National Ambient Air Quality Standards, coal combustion residue requirements, carbon legislation, and water intake structure rules. This is just the beginning of the costs that will be borne by customers to comply with the rules.
Study Finds Abandoned Power Projects Cost Iowa $10.2 Billion of Investment, Thousands of Jobs
As Iowans discuss the possibility of additional power generation being constructed in the state, a new national report shows the impact on state economies when power projects are not built.
The United States Chamber of Commerce last week released “Progress Denied: A Study on the Potential Economic Impact of Permitting Challenges Facing Proposed Energy Projects”. Their study found that over the past decade, 351 different energy-related projects had been stopped by issues related to receiving approval by state and federal regulators.
For Iowa, the Chamber’s identified four different projects proposed for construction in Iowa that did not occur due to regulatory road blocks. The best known of these would be the proposed Alliant power generation facility that was slated to be constructed outside of Marshalltown. This project, which was proposed to replace an existing coal-fired fire plant in the area, was shelved in 2009 when state regulators continued to impose new requirements on the company in order to proceed.
One of the other uncompleted projects was LS Power’s proposal for a 750 megawatt generation facility outside of Waterloo. This project was proposed in 2007, but immediately ran into regulatory barriers imposed at the state and local level. In 2009, LS Power announced its intention to abandon the project. The other power projects identified in the report were the Big River Resources Ethanol plant proposed for Grinnell and the Green River Express transmission lines that were to move electrical power from South Dakota to Chicago.
Constructing these four projects would have brought 19,300 jobs to Iowa and an investment of $10.2 billion dollars. The annual economic output of just these four projects would have been $1.1 billion, with $200 million of that going out in salaries and benefits to the 5,400 permanent jobs that would have been created if they had been able to be built.
On a national level, the study found that the construction of the 351 proposed projects would have generated $1.1 trillion in economic activity and 1.9 million construction jobs. Once in operation, 791,000 Americans would have been needed to keep the facilities operating.
The report clearly shows that meeting the power needs of American businesses and consumers has tremendous impact on the economy. As federal policy moves to limit the options for power generation, meeting these needs has the potential to be a major driver in the economic recovery of Iowa and the nation.
Question of the week: Do you believe this is the time to approve a new nuclear power plant in Iowa?
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