Approving nuclear power plan would bring severe financial risk, Iowa senators say

MidAmerican says efforts misguided; calls ad from opponents 'scare tactic'

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, addresses a Statehouse news conference warning of
Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, addresses a Statehouse news conference warning of "severe financil risk" if legislation allowing MidAmerican Energy to build a small-scale nuclear reactor is approved. Bolkcom and Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids (behind Bolkcom) are touring the state today to rally opposition to House File 561. (James Q. Lynch/The Gazette)

Iowa Democratic senators kicked off a statewide tour at the Capitol in Des Moines Tuesday morning, warning Iowans they face severe financial risk if legislation to build a new nuclear plant is approved.

The legislation, House File 561, which was passed by the House last year, is eligible for debate in the Senate.

Sens. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids and Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City are telling Iowans that nuclear power is too risky to attract Wall Street investors.

“So MidAmerican wants to change the law to force you, the customer, to pay for it,” Bolkcom said at a Statehouse news conference.

“You get the cost and risk while MidAmerican gets the profits guaranteed under HF 561 without any guarantee that a nuclear plant will produce a single watt of electricity,” he said.

Hogg and Bolkcom were joined by eight other Democratic senators. Hogg said he didn’t invite Republicans, but believes there are GOP senators who oppose HF 561.

The bill mandates MidAmerican to apply for ratemaking principles to design, license, permit and construct a nuclear power plant, said Bolkcom, a member of the Commerce Committee that voted 8-7 to send HF 561 to the full Senate. Once approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, MidAmerican could immediately begin collecting costs and profits “for simply trying to build a nuclear power plant,” he said.

Also, a group called Citizens for a Healthy Iowa ran a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register calling the financing plan a scam.

“Shortsighted politicians in the STATE legislature want to let big utility companies add a tax to your electric bill for a nuclear power plant they might not ever build,” the group said in the ad. “This sounds like a scam, and it is. It's happened before in Florida.”

But Iowa isn’t Florida, MidAmerican spokeswoman Tina Potthoff said.

Calling the ad a “scare tactic,” Potthoff said that the approval process for Iowa utilities is different than Florida’s.

MidAmerican believes the small-scale nuclear reactor being proposed should continue to be an option in Iowa. HF 561 does not allow the utility to raise rates or build a nuclear power plant without IUB approval, she said.

“We have to go through a lengthy process with the IUB and it will have the final judgment,” she said.

The bill, as amended by the Commerce Committee, adds the “toughest consumer protections in any type of energy legislation in Iowa,” she added.

Today’s schedule for the tour by Bolkcom and Hogg is:

  • 11:30 a.m. – Bolkcom in Iowa City, Iowa City Public Library, Room D
  • 1 p.m. – Hogg in Sioux City, The Wilbur Aalfs (Main) Library, Gleeson Room, 529 Pierce Street
  • 2:30 p.m. – Bolkcom in Davenport, Davenport Public Library, Main Branch, Downtown
  • 4 p.m. – Hogg in Fort Dodge, Fort Dodge Area Senior Center, 617 Central Avenue

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.