The Duane Arnold Energy Center near Cedar Rapids is licensed to operate until 2034, but might close in 2020. While previously a cash cow, Iowa’s only nuclear power plant has become economically challenged due to cheap gas supplies and lots of wind energy. The Byzantine market structure is not serving the public interest of reducing pollution and providing value to electricity consumers. Claims that closing DAEC will save ratepayers money are likely unfounded.
The irony of this situation is that nuclear is among the cleanest energy sources and, over time, a lower cost option. The nuclear plant is already built and paid for, costing relatively little to operate.
Duane Arnold’s owners are being paid $110 million to close the plant early. Much of this will be recouped by harvesting wind tax credits and other subsidies. When one considers that ratepayers are also taxpayers, the total cost to the public can only increase. DAEC already provides 9.2 percent of Iowa’s electricity and 19 percent of its clean electricity. Any replacement energy will certainly be dirtier because on calm, cloudy days it will be coal or new gas plants providing our energy. This existing nuclear plant provides energy 24/7 with zero emissions.
If clean energy is desirable, government should enact pollution fees and promote clean technologies. I urge Iowa officials to oppose closing DAEC and support comprehensive energy strategies that punish bad outcomes and rewards good ones. We all should.