Duane Arnold Energy Center

The Duane Arnold Energy Center (DAEC) is located on the Cedar River just outside Palo, Iowa, which is 8 miles from Cedar Rapids. DAEC holds the distinction of being the only nuclear power plant in the state. The plant currently has an output of about 615 megawatts and uses a GE Mark I boiler. DAEC has several owning interests. The majority owner and the company in charge of operating the plant is NextEra Energy Resources. The other owners are the Central Iowa Power Cooperative and the Corn Belt Power Cooperative.

Iowa Electric Light & Power first applied to the Atomic Energy Commission for a license to build a nuclear power plant in the late 1960s. The application was approved in June 1970, and construction began immediately afterward. Construction was initially slated to take 40 months and cost $250 million. The final construction time came in at 45 months with a total cost of $300 million.

The Duane Arnold Energy Center began operating in February 1975. Although the plant had a license to operate at 1,658 megawatts, it was restricted to 1,593 until 1985 when modifications were completed to allow full utilization of the plant. In 2000, operations of the plant were transferred to a new company by the name of Nuclear Management Company, LLC. At the time, Iowa Electric Light & Power had split into the Central Iowa Power Cooperative and the Corn Belt Power Cooperative, both of which maintained ownerships along with Alliant. The plant was allowed a power uprate in 2001, bringing its total to 1,912 megawatts, which was made possible by a series of scheduled power outages.

Seventy percent of the ownership of DAEC was sold in 2006 by Alliant Energy to FPL Energy. Later, FPL Energy changed their name to NextEra Energy Resources. The plant was granted an extension to their operating license in 2010. It is currently scheduled to expire in 2034.

DAEC uses a lone General Electric BWR-4 nuclear reactor in conjunction with a Mark I containment system to generate electricity. The reactor is cooled by a series of 24 cooling towers. The plant also has an onsite facility to process all waste water, and it has an onsite storage facility for solid nuclear waste as well. The plant currently employs over 500 in the Cedar Rapids metro area. Most workers are union employees. The plant has a community warning system installed to notify residents in case of emergencies.

Despite this safety measure, the community may still be at risk because of non-nuclear materials in the plant. As a result of the plant’s age, asbestos materials likely found use in the facility’s walls and ceilings as an insulator against heat, fire and chemical exposure, which are major considerations in power plants. Unfortunately, as these plants age, these asbestos materials are exposed and broken down into particles that can contaminate the surrounding environment and destroy the air quality for employees. Furthermore, these fibers can attach to clothing and hair, traveling home with employees where they can put entire families at risk.