Environment Sustainability

Nuclear Power in 2013

Nuclear Power? - No Thanks
Nuclear Power? – No Thanks

LAKE MACBRIDE— A group called Saving America’s Farm Ground and Environment (S.A.F.E.) is hosting a meeting tomorrow about MidAmerican Energy’s study of two sites in Iowa where they may propose to build nuclear power plants. A representative from the electric utility is scheduled to brief the group about their plans, something they did previously only in a private meeting with land owners near the proposed site at 150th Street and Sweetland Road in rural Muscatine. My friends at Blog for Iowa posted details about the meeting here. Under different circumstances, I would attend, but alas, I have to work a job to pay my utility bills.

Nuclear Power Plant Site
Nuclear Power Plant Site

If the global mind exists, as Al Gore posits in his book “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change,” it is powered by electricity. How society will produce the electricity to communicate is an open question. In a consumer society, electricity also powers cooking, laundry, staying up after sunset, and a host of personal and industrial tasks. Participants in a consumer society don’t often consider the question because the electric utility bill is inexpensive compared to other budget items.

What people do know is they don’t want a nuclear power plant in their back yard, and that is why people in Muscatine County are getting together. The memories of Chernobyl and Fukushima are too fresh, there is no safe level of radiation, and while the geography of the proposed site appears to be in the middle of nowhere, it is on prime farmland, and of interest to people from miles around.

MidAmerican Energy has a track record of obfuscation about their nuclear plans, and tends to operate in a perpetual salesmanship mode full of talking points and puffery. Locals are skeptical of their assertions, but until now, have been denied access to the discussion. This makes tomorrow’s meeting important, especially if the utility company is willing to listen.

A simple truth about nuclear power is that it is too expensive for anyone to capitalize, including Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy, without financial considerations that a public utility can get only through legislative action. MidAmerican’s legislative agenda regarding new nuclear power was blocked during the 84th Iowa General Assembly. In a sense, the community resistance to a new nuclear power plant is putting the cart before the horse. Nonetheless, we should be listening to hear the reaction and press coverage of the concerned citizens meeting tomorrow. If we care about sustainability in a turbulent world, this activity is one to watch.


Talk of the County

LAKE MACBRIDE— People were talking about the planned re-zoning of a farm near here, to subdivide it into the first-ever cluster of homes after the 2010 policy that created the rural cluster designation. On Tuesday, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors approved the first and second reading of a resolution supporting the plan.

I wrote to a friend on Monday, the cat is out of the bag— urban has already sprawled from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids. What difference does one more subdivision make in the Corridor? Those protected by stopping the development would be affluent landowners, living on expansive properties in expensive homes. I can see why they wouldn’t want a rural cluster invading their relatively secluded reserves. The problems of the affluent bourgeois are not mine.

The property owner was quoted in the Iowa City Press Citizen, “everyone here had an opportunity to purchase 40 acres of prime farm land, as they put it. The opposition claims how important it is to preserve farmland and this area, yet no one would make that commitment,” she said. “They have been relentless in this obsession and seem to think that they and only they know what’s best and feel absolute in their self-appointed role as guardians… The bottom line is that I own this property and as owner I have property rights.”

To the extent we accept the premise of land rights— that Black Hawk and Poweshiek intended to cede their rights after the Black Hawk War— it is hard to take issue with the property owner. What is bothersome is there is a real climate crisis ongoing, and this local talk is a diversion from something much more important than whether another subdivision of McMansions is built.