Iowa took another step towards nuclear power on Wednesday when a bill that would give companies incentives to produce it unanimously passed a House Commerce Committee vote.
On campus of the University of Iowa, reactions to the vote were mixed.
UI engineering Professor Jerald Schnoor said he doesn’t agree with the use of nuclear energy.
“I find it difficult to fund a $1 billion plant that won’t produce energy for more than a decade,” he said. “And the public has real skepticism for it as an energy option.”
UI physics Professor Emeritus Edwin Norbeck disagreed. He said nuclear energy is one of the most cost-effective energy sources and could be an “interesting” addition to the UI’s decreasing dependence on such fossil fuels as coal.
“The amount of [nuclear] fuel that you handle is so small,” Norbeck said. “You get more waste from a coal plant in a day than you ever would from a nuclear plant.”
The state generates some 72 percent of its energy from coal, which emits high levels of pollutants that damage the environment and can increase the risk of heart and lung disease among those living near a plant.
Though environmentalists have long advocated a switch from coal, they worry about the nation’s lack of infrastructure for nuclear waste disposal, the energy consuming process of mining uranium to power nuclear plants and the possibility that a shift to nuclear energy will sap momentum from Iowa’s other, safer renewable energy efforts – like Iowa’s booming wind industry.
Supporters and opponents of the bill expect it to fly through the legislature.