Lessons from our nuclear plant

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: November 1 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 10:45 pm in

By Dave Wilson

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Here in the heartland it is easy to forget that the information most of us receive about matters of national importance tends to be packaged and delivered to us by those living in the urban centers on the East and West coasts.

An example is the national debate about energy policy and the need for “new” methods to generate electricity that is clean. Another example is the debate about how America can strengthen its economy. There are some lessons that the East and the West could learn from us.

Our local Duane Arnold Energy Center (DAEC) in Palo produces emission-free electricity, jobs, tax revenue and economic development. Although the plant operates quietly and rarely gets recognized, we should periodically remind ourselves of its value.

Since 1975, DAEC has been continuously generating more than 615 million watts of electricity, providing the necessary power for more than 600,000 homes annually. All of that electricity has come with no carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions. This is significant. Nuclear energy provides 73 percent of America’s emission-free electricity and Iowa has been doing its part.

The plant provides about 600 high-paying jobs during normal operations and can explode to 1,500 during routine refueling outages. Salaries top $85 million annually, which pumps money into the veins of our local and state economies. This clean-energy production results in over $3 million in property taxes that help support our school buildings, teacher salaries, roads, police departments, fire departments and other necessary infrastructure.

Not only do we Iowans generate these benefits, but we do it with highly trained plant operators who ensure a safety posture second to none worldwide. This particular plant is recognized nationwide for its robust construction and excellent location, providing exceptional protection from events such as earthquakes and flooding. This was validated through an exhaustive process conducted following the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan and the Fukushima plant.

Certainly there are legitimate issues being debated all across America. But when it comes to clean, safe energy production and economic stability, we can be proud that we are an example from which the rest of the country can learn.

Dave Wilson is a retired engineer in Cedar Rapids with 37 years experience in engineering, operations and senior maanagement at three nuclear power plants, including the Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo. He is also a contributing writer for the Energy Information Center. Comments: dwilso@outlook.co

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