The Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo, Iowa’s only nuclear power plant, has the same type of reactors as those at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan. Our focus here is not with the safety of the plant in Iowa, but rather who the heck was Duane Arnold?
Duane Arnold grew up in Sanborn, was educated at Grinnell College and went to work for Iowa Electric Light and Power Company in 1946. At the time of his death in 1983, at the age of 65, he was chairman of the board and CEO of that company, marrying along the way the previous chairman’s daughter, Henrietta. Arnold was very committed to nuclear energy despite the controversy surrounding that source of energy, and oversaw the construction and opening in 1974 of the plant that bears his name. “In my opinion, nuclear power is the most beneficial method of anything we could possibly do to provide energy to our customers in the future,” Mr. Arnold stated in a 1979 interview with the Des Moines Register, about a month after the Three Mile Island accident. Controversies did not end with Mr. Arnold’s death. His son and four daughters went to court to force Iowa Electric to continue payments of a deferred compensation plan that the company stopped after Henrietta’s death in 1986.
After changing ownership under a series of utility mergers, Florida Power and Electric now owns 70% of the Duane Arnold Energy Center. It generates about 592 million watts of electricity – enough power to supply the annual needs of more than 600,000 homes.