We view the nuclear power bill under consideration in the Iowa Legislature as two issues.
One issue is how MidAmerican Energy should finance construction of a nuclear power plant. The other issue relates to questions about whether, in fact, MidAmerican should build such a facility.
Discussion of the latter, it seems to us, is overshadowing discussion about the former.
At this point, our primary concern is protection of ratepayers from having to bear the burden of financial risk for MidAmerican's nuclear aspirations. Company shareholders should shoulder the risk, not utility consumers.
Under the bill, MidAmerican would be allowed to raise money for a nuclear power plant from its customers in advance by assessing surcharges on utility bills. As it takes up discussion of the nuclear bill, possibly this week, we urge the Senate to change this provision.
As we have said before, we believe this provision would set a bad precedent contrary to the best interests of the public and it would be unwise for the Legislature to support it. Complicating the financing question is the fact no one can say with certainty at this point what a nuclear plant would cost or whether a nuclear plant would get the necessary support of the Legislature, Iowa Utilities Board and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Much of the discussion about the nuclear power bill relates to questions of economics, safety, supply and consumption. These, of course, are crucial questions. In fact, we would prefer the Legislature take another year to examine them in more detail and take the full pulse of Iowans about them.
Regardless of when those discussions take place, though, the Legislature first should address the financing question by sending a clear message of opposition to the MidAmerican plan for collecting money for nuclear power plant construction costs from its customers in advance.