OPERATORS of the Seabrook nuclear power plant Monday began low-power testing, with the first atomic chain reaction expected within seven to 10 days. Atomic operation will be the biggest milestone yet for a plant that is a decade behind schedule, billions of dollars over budget, and a focus of the nation's anti-nuclear movement.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Friday granted Seabrook a low-power license.
Nearly three years after the reactor was completed, the $6 billion project finally won NRC approval for the tests on May 18. But the NRC granted a one-week stay of the license so a federal court could rule on requests to delay the tests.
Last Thursday, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia declined to delay the tests.
The license permits Seabrook to conduct tests at up to 5 percent of full power. The plant must win final federal approval for evacuation plans for nearby communities before it can operate commercially. Massachusetts officials and anti-nuclear activists have vowed to continue their opposition to the plant.