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FBI Blames Fire At Nuclear Plant On Arsonist

December 18, 1987 GMT

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) _ An arsonist was responsible for a November fire inside the Unit 2 reactor at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s idled Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, an FBI spokesman said.

FBI Special Agent Tom Wiseman said Thursday a state laboratory analysis found gasoline residue in the ashes of the Nov. 2 fire, which damaged a small area.

Wiseman said FBI agents already have interviewed 50 people with access to the area where the fire began. He said no arrests were imminent.

Officials of the federal utility said the fire did minor damage and was extinguished within 30 minutes.

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Rick Tye, chief of fire protection and safety for TVA, said that no Browns Ferry workers had been disciplined based on the FBI investigation. Tye said the fire and determination of arson would not affect TVA’s plans to restart the Unit 2 reactor in June 1988.

A Nuclear Reguatory Commission spokesman in Atlanta said the June date was a TVA deadline that NRC has not approved.

″This incident is not the only thing that they have to contend with,″ said Ken Clark of the NRC. ″We have not been told that arson was the cause but that certainly will have a bearing on the situation.″

The November fire was not the first to hit Browns Ferry since it was idled over safety concerns in September 1984. A May 1986 fire that destroyed a water cooling tower outside the plant was blamed on electrical problems.