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Duane Arnold Energy Center shut down earlier than anticipated due to August 10 derecho

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BENTON COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) - The Duane Arnold Energy Center had planned to shut down on October 30, 2020, but the August 10 derecho caused it to close right away.

Cooling towers were said to be damaged by the wind storm, shutting down the nuclear power plant.

"They actually incurred something damage at the plant, specifically to the cooling towers. The reactors shut down the way it was designed to shut down. There were never any issues with any of that, but the loss of the cooling towers meant they couldn't restart," Benton County Emergency Management's Scott Hansen said.

The plant had provided power to most of eastern Iowa since 1974, and had about 450 employees form the surrounding areas.

The Duane Arnold Energy Center had been set to shut down since 2018, so the employees were given notice.

A representative from the NextEra Energy company, the owner of the power plant, said that NextEra has been working with the Duane Arnold employees in helping them find new jobs in other power plants in the country, or helping by providing early retirement packages.

The Benton County Emergency Management department also suffered a financial loss from the plant shutting down.

"They've typically put in 65 to 68 thousand dollars worth of money for our budget…basically the support of the program they've given us all these years with the planning, training, and exercise program, that has to be in place around all the nuclear power plants," Hansen said.

The funds provided directly from the energy center also helped in purchasing some communication equipment, for the emergency management department to utilize.

The loss of the money will cause taxes to rise in Benton County in the year of 2022, but it will go towards emergency personnel, such as emergency management, fire, and police departments in the area.

"Without government functioning and in place, the people aren't able to recover as fast or as efficient as they should," Scott Hansen said.

Now, the decommissioning process will take up to 60 years to complete, as that is the standard amount of time for nuclear power plants to do so safely.

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Diego Hernandez

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