Closing DAEC won’t help climate change

CBJ Editorial

It has been interesting to note the increasing number of elected officials and governing bodies becoming woke to climate change.

Last year saw major initiatives by the Linn County Board of Supervisors, the city of Cedar Rapids, the city of Iowa City and other communities to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Johnson County has been aggressively pursuing these initiatives for many years.

It is unfortunate, however, that the elected officials in Linn County and Cedar Rapids are too late to deal with the one thing that has the most potential to impact green-house gas emissions in our region.

The Duane Arnold Energy Center, Iowa’s only nuclear power plant, located in Linn County near Palo will unfortunately be shut down in 2020. Duane Arnold produces 9.2 percent of Iowa’s total electricity and 19 percent of Iowa’s emission-free electricity, according to a 2018 news report.

Duane Arnold had previously planned to shut down in 2025, following the expiration of its current Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between NextEra Energy, which owns 70% of the plant, and Alliant Energy, Duane Arnold’s largest customer.

While Alliant and NextEra are launching more renewables with new wind and solar farms, they aren’t going to make up for the loss of the DAEC and will therefore need to utilize more natural gas and coal fired energy.

Elected officials and environmentalists have never embraced nuclear power generated energy. That’s a shame. This disconnect is exacerbating the climate change dilemma across the country and world and should be a warning for those of us in Iowa.

For example, Germany is in the process of phasing out its nuclear power plants because of the overstated public outcry after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

But this phasing out is forcing Germany to rely more on coal.

Germany is among the world’s leaders in developing renewable energy, and currently generates 47 percent of its energy from renewable sources. But it also generates 30 percent from coal, and experts warn that renewable sources are not yet ready to replace the 13 percent currently generated by nuclear power.

“If climate protection really matters to us, the nuclear power plants need to run longer,” Herbert Diess, the VW chief executive, told Tagesspiegel newspaper. “The priorities are the wrong way around: First we need to get out of coal, and then out of nuclear power.”

“Anyone who is in favor of low-carbon energy generation and guaranteed energy supply security cannot avoid nuclear energy,” Klaus-Peter Willsch, an MP from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU), told Bild newspaper. “In terms of climate protection, nuclear energy is the cleanest way of generating energy.”

Some states in the US are starting to understand this climate change dilemma and are working to keep their nuclear plants operating. Iowa should too.