The Honorable Kim Reynolds

Iowa State Capitol

1007 E Grand Ave #101

Des Moines, IA 50319

Dear Governor Reynolds,

We are writing as climate scientists, environmentalists and concerned citizens to urge you to take action to prevent the premature closure of the Duane Arnold Energy Center.  

Last week, the plant’s owner, NextEra, announced it had secretly negotiated a deal with Alliant Energy, a major state electric utility, to close the plant in 2020, instead of in 2034.

The two companies have offered minimal information about the deal, which could raise electricity prices in the state and spike air pollution and carbon emissions.

Anti-nuclear groups claim the plant will be replaced by wind energy. However, such a thing is not possible given the inherently unreliable nature of wind energy.

Even if the total quantity of wind energy were equal over a year to the total output of Duane Arnold, the people of Iowa will still depend on coal and natural gas when the wind isn’t blowing. During the hottest months of the year, when air conditioning pushes electricity demand to yearly highs, wind energy is at its lowest for the year, providing less than a quarter of Iowa’s power. Coal fills the gap.

Closing Duane Arnold early could thus result in adding the equivalent of 700,000 to 1,000,000 cars to the road, depending on if it’s replaced by a mix of gas and coal, or entirely by coal, respectively.

What’s certain is that closing the plant prematurely will result in higher emissions than would be the case had the plant stayed open and any new wind energy been additional rather than replacement.

While nobody knows what natural gas prices will be in 2020 much less 2034 or 2054, what is certain is that they will not be any cheaper than they are today.

Those who will be harmed the most are the people of Linn County, Iowa. Duane Arnold creates $246 million of economic activity locally, and another $255 million for the state’s economy, every year. In addition, Duane Arnold pays $3 million property taxes annually, and pays salaries 55 percent higher to its 610 workers than the county average.

Where nuclear plants have closed elsewhere in the United States, property values crashed, communities are devastated, and schools are deprived millions in much-needed revenue to pay teachers.

It is not too late to save Duane Arnold. Lawmakers in New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut saved their nuclear plants, including several single unit plants, through a subsidy that was a fraction of what is given to wind and solar.

Well-maintained nuclear plants can operate for at least 80 years and perhaps 100 or more, which means that Duane Arnold could stay in operation until at least 2054.

We urge you not to allow this proposal to be enacted before you, the state legislature, and the Utilities Board can fully consider the potential consequences.


James Hansen, Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions Program, Columbia University, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Alan Medsker, Coordinator, Environmental Progress - Illinois

Andrew C. Klein, Past President, American Nuclear Society, Professor Emeritus, Oregon State University

Erle C. Ellis, Ph.D, Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland

Joe Lassiter, Professor, Harvard Business School

Joshua S. Goldstein, Prof. Emeritus of International Relations, American University

Mark Lynas, author, The God Species, Six Degrees

Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress

Norris McDonald, President, Environmental Hope and Justice

Paul Robbins, Director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pushker Kharecha, Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions Program, Columbia University, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize recipient, author of Nuclear Renewal and The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Steve Kirsch, CEO, Token

Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of Better Angels of Our Nature

Valerie Gardner, Founder, Climate Coalition

CC: President Trump

Senator Grassley

Senator Ernst

Congressman Bloom

Senator Schneider

Speaker Upmeyer

Geri D. Huser, Iowa Utilities Board Chair

Nick Wagner, Iowa Utilities Board Member

Richard W. Lozier, Jr., Iowa Utilities Board Member