Vermont Yankee Office Fire Called Suspicious, Under Investigation

09/20/11 2:15PM By Kirk Carapezza

AP/Brian Witte
Police cordon off the driveway of the Vermont Yankee Joint Information Center after a fire early Tuesday in Brattleboro. No one was injured, but the building was unusable.
(Host) Fire officials and a spokesman for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant say a fire Tuesday morning at its corporate office in Brattleboro is of suspicious origin.

The fire comes as the state of Vermont is challenging whether the nuclear plant should be allowed to operate beyond next March, when its license expires. The company has sued to keep it running.

Larry Smith is the spokesman for Vermont Yankee. He says the Brattleboro building houses only corporate offices, so the fire hasn't affected operations at the plant, which is seven miles south in Vernon.

Standing outside the offices Tuesday afternoon, Smith says his staff hasn't been able to gain access to the building to assess the extent of fire, water and smoke damage.

(Smith) "We don't know until we can get inside. We have our plant servers and computer systems. And there's a quality control lab where we test instruments and other nuclear grade equipment."

(Host) Smith says most anti-nuclear demonstrations in Vermont have been outside the Vernon plant, though some have been held at the Brattleboro office building.

Over the past five years, in response to those demonstrations, Vermont Yankee has heightened security and occasionally locked down the offices.

But Smith says this is the first time he's ever felt threatened.

(Smith) "It's a little disturbing; it's unnerving. If the cause of the fire is determined to be deliberate, that's the most brazen, deliberate attempt on our property, or our employees or one of our facilities in our 39 year history."

(Host) Smith says he's thankful no one was in the building at the time of the fire, but the office is now unusable.

The Brattleboro Fire Department and the Vermont State Police are actively investigating the cause of the fire.

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