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From July 12, 2004, News-Sentinel
Bush admits no WMDs found, defends Iraq invasion
By Frank Munger
OAK RIDGE — President Bush delivered a 35-minute talk today that defended the administration's campaign against terror in the Mideast and elsewhere.
"Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq," he said.
The president cited positive developments in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.
After each major point in his speech, Bush came back with the same refrain: "The American people are safer."
The president said we remain a nation at war and there would be tough times ahead. He noted the difficult situations in North Korea and Iraq.
But he also cited positive examples, such as the United States has 60 nations supporting it on non-proliferation issues, 30 nations supporting it in Iraq and 40 in Afghanistan.
"We have duties and there will be difficult times ahead," he said.
The United States will not forget Sept. 11, 2001, he said.
"We will not allow our enemies to forget it either," Bush said.
Bush's speech came after he inspected crates of nuclear weapons parts and equipment, including gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment, from Libya.
The equipment and material were taken out of Libya following a U.S. deal with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Dozens of crates of material were taken to the Fuel Reprocessing and Robotics area, about three miles east of the main Oak Ridge National Laboratory complex, for the president to see.
Accompanying the president were National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.
The equipment was brought from the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, where it and nuclear-related materials are being stored.
The first shipment arrived in Oak Ridge in late January, and other loads came later, although officials have declined to specify contents or arrival dates.
Bush's quick visit is meant to underscore the administration's effort and determination to defeat terrorism.
On his out of the ORNL complex, he got out of his car and shook hands with dozens of employees who were lining the streets. He also signed autographs.
Air Force One is expected to leave shortly from McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base where it touched down at 10:08 a.m. on Runway 23R.
The president, dressed in a navy blue suit and red tie, deplaned to greet his guests.
A nine-vehicle motorcade sped him away to Oak Ridge, about 20 miles west.
Along the route the president was cheered by hundreds of people, some holding American flags.
At the gates of the Y-12 National Security Complex, about 30 anti-Bush protesters gathered with signs and banners denouncing the administration's policies.
Protesters carried signs opposing nuclear weapons development at Oak Ridge, the war in Iraq and the proposed federal marriage amendment.
More protesters gathered in downtown Knoxville around noon.
ORNL is a U.S. Department of Energy lab that conducts research in nearly all fields of science. The lab employs about 3,800 people with an annual budget approaching $1 billion. The sprawling complex houses a number of one-of-a-kind research facilities that are used by scientists from around the nation and many foreign countries.
Bush's visit comes at an important pre-convention juncture in the presidential campaign race. Democratic rival John Kerry recently named John Edwards, a fellow U.S. senator from North Carolina, as his running mate, and the Bush team has launched an aggressive ad campaign and series of field visits to offset the anticipated pro-Kerry bump in the ratings polls following the selection of a vice-presidential candidate.
The White House, meanwhile, is being dogged by persistent issues pertaining to Iraq, in particular the intelligence — some of it flawed — that was used to launch the war against Saddam Hussein a year ago. A Senate report was strongly critical of the CIA's characterization of Iraq weapons programs.
The government's Oak Ridge facilities have supported the administration efforts, including a recent project that airlifted Iraqi nuclear materials out of harm's way and brought them to the United States for safekeeping. Oak Ridge technicians supported the nuclear mission, and some of the highly radioactive sources — rounded up in Iraq over the past year — reportedly are being stored and analyzed at ORNL.
Abraham and other administration officials said terrorists could use the radioactive sources to create radiation dispersal devices — so-called dirty bombs. The Iraqi sources apparently are common nuclear devices that use cobalt-60, cesium-137 or other radioactive material to conduct industrial scans or medical analysis and therapy. Critics at the United Nations and elsewhere have said the transfer effort may have been illegal. Others suggested the project was needlessly hyped for political publicity.
Oak Ridge has been in the national spotlight regularly during the Bush administration.
The $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source, the nation's largest science project, is under construction on Chestnut Ridge a couple of miles from the main ORNL campus. The construction work is more than two-thirds complete, and the project remains on time and within its budget.
The SNS was initially approved and funded during the Clinton administration, and then-Vice President Al Gore attended the groundbreaking in late 1999. The project, however, has continued to draw strong support during the Bush administration, which has recommended full funding for the Oak Ridge project in each year's federal budget.
First operation of the research complex, where scientists will study the basic structure of materials, is scheduled for mid-2006.
ORNL also is heading the U.S. initiative to regain supremacy in supercomputing.
The project has been in development for the past couple of years, and DOE in May tabbed Oak Ridge as the winner of a national competition to build the world's fastest computer. ORNL is working in conjunction with Cray Corp., and officials predict the Cray X1 — or its immediate successor, the X2 — will surpass the calculating speed of Japan's Earth Simulator by late 2005 or early 2006.
The Earth Simulator is capable of about 40 trillion calculations per second or 40 teraflops.
ORNL also is working with IBM and other computer makers on next-generation architectures that will raise the research capabilities in critical science areas such as fusion energy and global climate change.
The laboratory hopes to have the world's first "petaflop" machine — capable of 1,000 trillion calculations per second — by the end of this decade.
Senior writer Frank Munger may be reached at 865-342-6329. Staff writer J.J. Stambaugh contributed to this report and may be reached at 865-342-6307.
Senior writer Frank Munger may be reached at 865-342-6329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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