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Bush to visit Browns Ferry
President's tour of nuclear plant part of effort to push energy legislation

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — Athens is to experience a first in its history when the nation's president visits Thursday.

A White House spokesman confirmed that President Bush will be in Athens at 1:15 p.m. to tour the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and make remarks.

Limestone County archivist Philip Reyer said to his knowledge, a sitting president has never visited Athens.

Although local officials could not say if Bush initiated the visit, it is part of an effort by Bush to push long-stalled energy legislation in Congress. Bills in both the Senate and House include provisions designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Bush has said nuclear power is one of the best ways to reduce such emissions, especially the carbon dioxide most scientists believe contributes to global warming.

The restart of Unit 1 in May made Browns Ferry one of the largest nuclear plants in the country. The unit, shut down in 1985, is going through a gradual power increase and review process.

The $1.8 billion restart project will give the plant three units that can produce enough power for nearly 2 million homes. It is the Tennessee Valley Authority's only three-unit plant.

Mayor Dan Williams said someone from the White House contacted him about two weeks ago, seeking information about the city.

"They wanted information about me, too," Williams said. "Our Police Department is working with their security people. That's about all I know."

Members of the Secret Service were at the Athens Police Department on Monday.

Williams said Bush's visit is a prestigious honor for the city.

"Not many communities get this opportunity," Williams said. "I would enjoy meeting him. I hope that as mayor I get to meet him."

Decatur police have been asked to assist with security, also.

Gov. Bob Riley will not be here to welcome the president unless he cuts short an industry trip to the Paris Air Show. The state's two U.S. senators, both Republicans, are in Paris also.

In his 2007 State of the Union address, Bush advocated aggressive exploration of alternative energy sources.

"We must continue changing the way America generates electric power by even greater use of clean coal technology; solar and wind energy; and clean, safe nuclear power," Bush said.

Last year, in a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers, Bush said, "We must expand our nuclear power industry if we want to be competitive in the 21st century. We have got to be wise. We have got to push hard to build new plants."

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