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American Scene

- - Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ALABAMA

Nuclear plant cited over safety

Federal regulators ordered an in-depth inspection Tuesday at a nuclear-power plant run by the Tennessee Valley Authority in northern Alabama after deciding the failure of an emergency cooling system there could have been a serious safety problem.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a rare "red" finding against the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant near Athens, Ala., after investigating how a valve on a residual-heat removal system became stuck shut. The NRC has issued only five red findings — the most severe ranking the agency gives to problems uncovered in its inspections — since its current oversight program started in 2001.

NRC said the utility must pay for detailed inspections of the plant's performance, its safety culture and organization. The agency said it could not estimate inspection costs.

NEW JERSEY

Adoption bill goes to governor

TRENTON — A bill to allow adult adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate goes to Gov. Chris Christie after passing the state Assembly this week.

If the Adoptees' Birthright bill is signed, birthparents will have to provide medical and cultural history, but they will have a year to ask for redaction of their name and address if they do not want that information shared with the adoptee.

Adult adoptees, adult descendants of adoptees and adoptive parents or guardians of minor adoptees would be allowed to request the original birth certificate.

The bill passed the New Jersey General Assembly 45-26 on Monday. It passed the state Senate in 2010.

Adoptee Pamela Hasegawa said she has been working with allies since 1980 to have original birth certificates unsealed.

Opponents argued that some birthparents expected their private information to be protected when they chose adoption for their babies. If the bill is enacted, it will ask birthparents choosing adoption to identify their preference for future contact.

NEW MEXICO

Public tours of Spaceport America begin

LAS CRUCES — Tours of Spaceport America in southern New Mexico will be offered to the public starting this week.

Spaceport America is the world's first dedicated spaceport. Anchor tenant Virgin Galactic plans to use the taxpayer-funded facility to take tourists on short hops into space. Other commercial spaceflight operations are also planned.

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority announced Tuesday that it selected Albuquerque-based company Follow the Sun Inc. to conduct the preview tours.

The spaceport is expected to be fully operational later this year.

The three-hour tour will cost adults $59 and $29 for children under 12. The first tour will be Friday.

NEW YORK

Mosque leaders object to neighbor's 'bomb' sign

AMHERST — Muslim leaders are upset that a homeowner who lives next door to a newly opened mosque has posted a sign on his front lawn that reads "Bomb Making Next Driveway."

Michael Heick lives along a heavily traveled road in the town of Amherst. The next driveway on the same side of the road is the entrance to the Jaffarya Center.

Mr. Heick told local media outlets that he put up the sign last weekend because he was frustrated with how the mosque and town officials handled his complaints that the mosque was built too close to his property and that its bright lights violate town code.

Mosque officials said the sign's message is offensive and that Mr. Heick hasn't responded to their requests for a meeting.

UTAH

Immigration law blocked by judge

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has blocked a new state immigration law that lets police check the citizenship status of anyone they arrest.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups, a 2008 appointee of President Bush, ruled Tuesday in Salt Lake City hours after the law went into effect.

Two civil rights groups sued to stop the law, contending it was modeled after an Arizona law currently before the federal courts and its implementation could lead to racial profiling.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the law is constitutional.

The law requires police to verify a person's U.S. immigration status if they are arrested for a serious crime. Immigration checks are optional for lesser crimes.

From wire dispatches and staff reports