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Obama defends nuclear power, says Hawaii, West Coast safe

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WASHINGTON » President Barack Obama is defending nuclear power as an important source of energy in the U.S., even as new questions are raised about its safety following radiation leaks from an earthquake- and tsunami-damaged nuclear plant in Japan.

Obama also told a Pittsburgh TV station that he has been assured that Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast will not be affected by radiation released from the damaged nuclear plant in Japan.

In interviews with Pittsburgh television station KDKA and Albuquerque’s KOAT, Obama said nuclear facilities in the U.S. are closely monitored and are designed to withstand certain levels of earthquakes.

"I’ve already instructed our nuclear regulatory agency to make sure that we take lessons learned from what’s happened in Japan and that we are constantly upgrading how we approach our nuclear safety in this country," the president said on KOAT.

However, Obama said that all energy sources have downsides and none are foolproof. He said the U.S. learned that last summer during the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The president has been doing a series of interviews with local television stations as the White House seeks to get his message beyond the Washington beltway as he prepares to run for re-election in 2012.

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