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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Over 60 employees will be let go from the Duane Arnold Energy Center in May under its plan to draw down staff at the closed nuclear plant near Palo.
Iowa’s only nuclear plant, which was to be decommissioned in October 2020 but was shut down after being extensively damaged in the August 2020 derecho, had about 500 employees before being closed.
Duane Arnold eliminated 128 positions about a month later, according to a notice filed with Iowa Workforce Development. Last year, NextEra, the owner of the plant, eliminated another 47 jobs. NextEra spokesperson Peter Robbins told The Gazette last year that most of the cuts were planned retirements or early retirement agreements. According to the latest notice, 61 employees will work their last day May 13.
NextEra spokesperson Megan Murphy Salyer said Tuesday that the layoffs are part of the company’s continued plan and gradual drawdown of the decommissioning plan.
“We have been very conscious of working with employees to minimize impact to them and their families,” she said. “At the end of May, 61 employees were offered a severance package.”
Murphy Salyer said she couldn’t give the number of employees who would still be at the plant after May, but said there are employees across all positions.
NextEra has said that “gradual workforce reductions” in a five-to-seven-year period will leave fewer than 50 employees at the site. All structures on the site will be removed by 2080 to allow time to reduce the intensity of radioactive particles.
Along with an enhanced retirement program, NextEra is also working with employees to place them in other jobs throughout the company or help with job searches in the industry. NextEra is also partnering with Alliant Energy and other companies to identify opportunities for employees.
NextEra submitted its application last month to Linn County to construct utility-scale solar projects near Palo called Duane Arnold I and II.
Duane Arnold Solar I would use 316 acres of an 857-acre area to place photovoltaic solar arrays capable of generating up to 50 megawatts of energy.
Duane Arnold Solar II would use 815 acres of a 1,780-acre area to place solar arrays capable of generating up to 150 MW as well as a 75-MW, four-hour battery energy storage facility.
If approved by the county and state, the project would begin operation by the end of 2024.
NextEra said in June it plans to invest $800 million in the solar project, including $50 million paid to landowners over the project’s 30-year life span.
If everything is approved, the plan would be for NextEra to develop and construct the project, but once operational, Alliant Energy would own and operate the project.
Palo Mayor Eric Van Kerckhove said Tuesday the decommissioning has had little effect on the nearby city.
“A lot of folks working there lived in Cedar Rapids, Robins and Hiawatha and the plant isn’t in our city limits, so there’s no commercial or industrial tax base there,” he said. “We have less traffic coming through town using our restaurants and gas stations. That’s really the impact I’ve noticed.”
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