President Bush says America needs to rely on alternative sources of energy, including nuclear power, to meet its future needs. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House, the president focused on the need for more nuclear power plants during a visit Thursday to a facility in the southern state of Alabama.

The president made the case for nuclear energy at a plant that has known its share of controversy over the years.

The Browns Ferry facility was one of the first nuclear plants in the United States in the 1970's, and it was the largest nuclear power producer in the world when it opened more than three decades ago.

But in 1985, it was shut down due to management and operational problems. Now, 22 years later, it is back up and running. "The restart of Browns Ferry Unit Number One represents the first nuclear reactor to come on line in the United States in more than a decade," he said.

Following a tour of the plant, President Bush spoke of the need to encourage more companies to apply for permits to build nuclear power facilities. He said nuclear power must be part of a national energy strategy.

"I believe that it is essential that we have a comprehensive energy policy to be able to deal with the challenges we are going to face in the 21st century - whether that be energy independence, or economic security or good environmental policy. And at the core of that policy must be electricity generated from nuclear power," he said.

Nuclear power fell out of favor in the United States following an accident at the Three Mile Island facility in Pennsylvania in 1979. The Bush administration says since then, improvements in safety technology have made nuclear energy viable once again.

President Bush spoke about the safety issue during his visit to Alabama. "Nuclear power is safe. The sector is one of the safest industries in the United States. Advances in science and engineering and plant design have made nuclear plants even safer than the last generation of plants," he said.

But critics argue they still are not safe enough.

They note the Browns Ferry plant was shut down for several days after its reopening last month due to safety concerns.

When asked about the closure, a White House spokeswoman said it is not unusual for nuclear power plants to experience a few problems when they come back on line, adding officials worked quickly to make the needed adjustments.