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WILTON—About 65 people gathered at the Wilton Community Center last night to view a screening of the documentary, “The Atomic States of America,” hosted by the group Saving America’s Farmland and Environment (S.A.F.E.). Attendees also heard an update from two of the group’s co-founders Dwight and Dianne Glenney. S.A.F.E. began with a group of farm families who rose in opposition to MidAmerican Energy’s plans for a nuclear powered generating station on 150th Street near Wilton.
No surprise that a group of farmers would fight a large corporation in the biblical terms of David v. Goliath when MidAmerican Energy bought options on 729 acres of prime Iowa farm land in the middle of an established rural community to build a power plant. According to Glenney, the electric utility has three possibilities for the land should they exercise the options: build a nuclear powered generating station, build a natural gas powered generating station, or do nothing. S.A.F.E. is organized so their Davids can remove MidAmerican’s Goliath from their lives and the land options expire without action.
I first met some of the group in October 2012 when Iowa Public Interest Research Group hosted a community organizing meeting to oppose siting a nuclear power plant near Wilton. My advice at the time was, “your most effective voice is with your state legislators when they convene the 85th General Assembly… Let your legislator know you’re opposed to it.” Since then, members of S.A.F.E. engaged their elected officials, securing resolutions opposing nuclear power from the Cedar and Muscatine county boards of supervisors. They also recruited state representatives Bobby Kaufmann and Tom Sands to support their efforts. Membership is approaching 400 people who have signed their petition and joined S.A.F.E.
According to Dwight Glenney, the group has been researching nuclear power during the time since the October meeting. What they learned moved the group from a not in my back yard approach to more general opposition of nuclear power in Iowa, in the United States and globally. Glenney indicated there are options besides nuclear power to supply electricity to meet growing demand in the state.
He reported that MidAmerican Energy has completed their three-year study of the feasibility of nuclear power in Iowa and is expected to deliver the report to the Iowa Utilities Board this week. Dianne Glenney reported on grassroots organizing activity of fundraising, letters to the editor, production of an information packet, attendance at legislative forums and other items.
S.A.F.E. makes a strong point that they are not affiliated with any so-called “green” groups, and that is a strength of the organization. By remaining strictly grassroots, with members of the community effected by MidAmerican Energy’s plans for rural Wilton being the primary stake holders in the group’s activity, they have an independent and unique voice that dovetails with other concerns of rural Iowa.
What’s next? S.A.F.E. supports building any new electricity generating facility on existing power plant locations so that new land is not taken out of farm production. According to Dwight Glenney, it makes sense from the standpoint that the logistical support of transmission lines, roads and infrastructure is already in place. They also plan to advocate with the Iowa legislature for a ban on nuclear power, similar to what 13 other state legislatures have enacted. Such a ban may be permanent, or until the unresolved problem of disposal of radioactive spent fuel is addressed by the federal government. S.A.F.E. is working with their legislators to introduce bills regarding these issues during next year’s second session of Iowa’s 85th General Assembly.
Dwight said that if the issue is resolved, and MidAmerican Energy decides not to build a power plant near Wilton, any funds remaining in their bank account will be divided three ways and donated to local Future Farmers of America groups. For the time being, they asked for financial support and for people to join their growing membership. If you would like to learn more about S.A.F.E., email Dianne Glenney at firstname.lastname@example.org.