Testing and Protesting

After eight years of delays, the expenditure of $4.9 billion and the arrest of more than 3,000 protesters, the controversial Diablo Canyon nuclear plant last week started low-power testing. But within six hours of operation, plant engineers noticed that a stuck valve had begun channeling nonradioactive water into a holding tank instead of into the reactor's cooling system. Ten minutes after the discovery, however, the valve was closed, and testing continued. "We expect events like this to take place," said George Sarkisian, a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric, which operates the plant. "It's all part of the low-power testing process."

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