MidAmerican Energy has told regulators in Iowa that it is holding back on its plans to construct new nuclear generating capacity based on small modular reactors (SMRs) in the state due to regulatory uncertainties.

MidAmerican began a feasibility study in 2010 into the construction of nuclear generating capacity in Iowa. The study considered the deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs), with up to 2400 MWe of capacity being built by 2040.

The utility has now completed that study, three months ahead of schedule, and informed state regulators that SMRs could be a cost-effective alternative to other forms of generation in Iowa — when carbon emissions are constrained or taxed.

A detailed site selection process identified two potential locations to house a nuclear power plant, one in Muscatine County and the other in Fremont County. The site in Muscatine County was considered the preferred site as there was a lesser risk of flooding.

However, MidAmerican said: “It is premature, given the uncertainty of carbon regulation and the extensive regulatory review for new nuclear reactor designs, to immediately pursue any additional site work on a future generation option, including a nuclear facility”.

The company added that “the next several years could potentially provide additional clarity” on those uncertainties, such as details about forthcoming greenhouse gas regulations for fossil-fuelled generation, as well as regulatory approvals of SMR designs and firm price commitments from for engineering, procurement and construction contracts.

In March 2010, the Iowa state Senate voted to allow MidAmerican to increase electric consumer rates so that it could conduct its feasibility study. These funds were expected to total $15 million over three years. The utility has now proposed to repay $8.8 million of these funds back to customers as it had completed the assessment ahead of schedule and under budget.

MidAmerican also said that its land options in Fremont County will be allowed to expire, and the company will not pursue an extension on its land options in Muscatine County.

Des Moines-based MidAmerican — an investor-owned regulated utility over 80% owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway — is Iowa’s largest energy company, providing electricity to some 734,000 customers. The utility said that it “will continue to assess and review all sources of generation in order to continue finding ways to serve its customers and remain a low-cost energy provider”.

MidAmerican had previously proposed constructing a nuclear power plant in Payette County, Idaho. However, in December 2007, it announced that it had decided not to proceed with this.

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