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McCain pushes nuclear power

Republican presidential candidate John McCain toured the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant in Newport, Mich., yesterday. McCain is calling for construction of new nuclear power plants. Republican presidential candidate John McCain toured the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant in Newport, Mich., yesterday. McCain is calling for construction of new nuclear power plants. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)
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Associated Press / August 6, 2008

NEWPORT, Mich. - John McCain toured a nuclear power plant yesterday, the first such visit in recent history by a presidential candidate and one that highlighted the promise and peril of a technology central to reducing reliance on foreign oil.

The Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant outside Detroit, named for the first physicist to split the atom, is home to both an operating power plant and another reactor that had a partial meltdown in the 1960s. It was decommissioned in 1972, while its successor continues to operate.

McCain is placing great stock in modern-day nuclear technology by calling for the construction of 45 nuclear power plants by 2030.

"Solving our national energy crisis requires an 'all of the above' approach," McCain said. "That will require aggressive development of alternative energies like wind, solar, tidal, and bio-fuels. It also requires expanding traditional sources of energy like off-shore drilling, clean coal, and nuclear power like the power produced at this plant here in Michigan."

Obama has described nuclear power as "not optimal" and labeled himself "not a nuclear energy proponent." But he has said he would not rule out more nuclear power "only so far as it is clean and safe."

Obama accused McCain yesterday of taking a page out of "the Cheney playbook" on energy, trying to cast McCain as more concerned about oil company profits and drilling than an overall strategy.

But Obama voted for a 2005 energy bill, backed by Bush and developed in large measure by Cheney, that included billions in subsidies for oil and natural gas production. McCain opposed the bill on grounds it included billions in unnecessary tax breaks for the oil industry.

The Obama campaign has said the Illinois senator supported the bill because it included huge investments in renewable energy.

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