THURMAN, Iowa — MidAmerican Energy has allowed an option on land southwest of town to expire, making it unlikely the utility will build a power plant — nuclear or otherwise — in Fremont County.
The company is not commenting on its intentions in Fremont County, or for that matter in Muscatine County in eastern Iowa, the other location it has been investigating as the possible location for a power plant.
However, the company says it will inform local landowners of its plans by the end of the month and provide documentation of any decision to the Iowa Utilities Board and the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate.
“This documentation will address issues related to siting findings, financial assessment and economic development results,” MidAmerican spokeswoman Tina Potthoff said in a statement.
A person familiar with discussions in Fremont County said company officials have indicated MidAmerican will not build a plant on land southwest of Thurman.
“It's over,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and who had talked to company representatives. “It's definitely over.”
In 2010, the Iowa Legislature directed MidAmerican to complete a three-year study on the construction of nuclear facilities in the state. The law allows the utility to charge its Iowa customers $15 million for a three-year study examining the feasibility of building a plant.
In March 2011, Century Development, an Iowa company that later merged with Mid-American, took out a two-year option on the Fremont County land.
MidAmerican said in September it was investigating sites in Fremont and Muscatine Counties — on opposite sides of the state — for a power plant. Company officials have said they would examine the potential for a nuclear power plant, but could build a different kind of plant, such as natural gas.
The company also has said it could decide not to do anything.
Last week, MidAmerican announced plans to add up to 656 new wind turbines by the end of 2015, as part of a $1.9 billion investment in additional wind generation capacity in Iowa.
The company last year held informational meetings with local landowners and officials in both counties. MidAmerican said then it would be a long time before any plant was operational. The process of getting a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission takes several years.
The last nuclear plant to be licensed and built in the United States was the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Tennessee, in 1996.
The option on the Fremont County land, owned by local resident Robert Esden, expired in March. The Fremont County Recorder's Office has no record of a renewal.
Angie Nenneman, whose husband's family farms the Missouri River bottomlands about five miles from where the plant would be located, said she does not believe MidAmerican will build a power plant nearby.
“There has been no land transfer, no anything,” said Nenneman, 45. “I don't feel like they are coming to Fremont County.”
Officials in Fremont County, including members of the County Board and the sheriff, say they have not heard from the company since a meeting in September at Waubonsie State Park.
Said Mike Crecelius, the county's emergency management coordinator: “We have not heard anything since we were all over there at Waubonsie that day.”
If a plant is built, Kas Kelly, a member of the Muscatine County Board, said indications are MidAmerican would build it in her county.
Kelly cites as evidence the company's recent land purchase and current options to buy and near Wilton.
Century Development signed agreements in August and September 2012 with several landowners near Wilton to buy their land. Those options expire after two years.
Also late last year MidAmerican purchased two separate tracts of land, totaling about three acres, near Wilton.
Iowa has one nuclear power plant — the Duane Arnold Energy Center near Palo, northwest of Cedar Rapids — which went online in 1975.
There are two nuclear power plants in eastern Nebraska, one at Brownville and the other at Fort Calhoun. If a plant were built near Thurman, that would mean three nuclear plants within 65 miles of downtown Omaha.
Des Moines-based MidAmerican is a division of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. of Omaha. The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
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