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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Iowa allows more nuclear plants

This morning, the Iowa state legislature did in fact pass a bill that allows construction of new nuclear plants in their state. Previously, Iowa had refused to allow such construction and as a result the state has only one operating plant, Duane Arnold Energy Center. That plant is in Palo, Iowa, which is near Cedar Rapids; the plant is a GE BWR Mk I rated 1912 MWt / 640 MWe. Duane Arnold's contract was awarded to GE in February 1968; the construction permit for that site was issued in June 1970. In February 1974 the operation license was granted by the NRC, and the plant was online producing power commercially just a bit less than one year later. Apparently another plant was considered for the same site, but was not optioned to General Electric for construction - perhaps this was to be a PWR built by one of the three competitors.

Iowa might have had another plant- we have record of a study on file in 1970 for a plant to have been called the Iowa Station, on the Des Moines River, which in '70 was expected to be operating possibly by 1975 and which would have been in the 500-750 MWe range. No further details are known but apparently at least siting was considered. It's very early, but one wonders immediately if this site is still on the table. It's likely that exclusion zoning for population might have made this site unworkable in the intervening years.

So then what next? Well, no projects have been announced per se; all Iowa is doing is saying clearly, publicly and legally that nuclear is again on the table in that state. Which is a good thing.

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