Two companies have started a bidding war for nuclear power plants in New England, Reuters reports, after Entergy Nuclear Generating Co expressed an interest in buying the Vermont Yankee station. Previously, AmerGen Energy Co had been the only company bidding for the 540 MWe power station. Both companies have indicated that they intend to bid for the three remaining nuclear reactors in New England, Millstone units 2 and 3 and Seabrook.

AmerGen Energy had an exclusive agreement with Vermont Yankee’s owners which expired in February. Talks between the two sides were extended until the beginning of August, but no agreement was reached. Now the nuclear station’s board of directors has indicated that it will conduct parallel negotiations with the two companies, aiming to reach a final agreement by 1 October.

According to a spokesman for Vermont Yankee, the plant has been valued at $150 million. In 1996, the cost to decommission the plant was estimated at $366 million. The plant’s decommissioning fund was $225 million by the end of 1998.

The Vermont Yankee plant is a boiling water reactor similar to the Pilgrim station in Massachusetts which Entergy Nuclear purchased recently, completing the first purchase of a US nuclear plant in the process. The company, which paid $81 million for Pilgrim, is seeking to buy around five plants and secure three decommissioning contacts by 2003. It is already managing the decommissioning of the Maine Yankee and Millstone unit one nuclear facilities.

AmerGen, meanwhile, has entered into the first deal for the purchase of a US nuclear plant when it agreed to buy unit one of the Three Mile Island nuclear facility in Pennsylvania. That deal is expected to be formally completed by the end of this year. The company has since agreed that it willbuy the Clinton nuclear plant in Illinois and Nine Mile Point 1 and a share of Nine Mile Point 2, in New York.

A third player could also join the New England fray. Northeast Utilities already owns the largest stakes in Millstone 2, Millstone 3 and Seabrook. Although it is prevented by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission from bidding for Seabrook, it has expressed an interest in bidding for ownership of the two operating Millstone reactors.