The race to construct a new generation of nuclear power plants in the UK is shaping up with the completion of an auction of suitable sites for new build.

A consortium of Germany’s E.On and RWE was successful in its bid for two sites, while French firm EDF has acquired land at Bradwell in eastern England. A third bidder – a consortium of Iberdrola, GDF Suez and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) – dropped out of the bidding process as interest in the sites drove prices up.

E.On and RWE say that they will now push ahead with plans to develop at least 6 GW of new nuclear build in the UK. The joint venture successfully bid for land at Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa in Anglesey – two of the best sites for development.

The auction of the three sites was held by the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and raised £387 million for the government to help pay for the cost of cleaning up existing nuclear sites. The construction of new nuclear capacity is a central part of the UK government’s policy of developing a low-carbon power sector.

EDF, which earlier this year completed its purchase of nuclear generator British Energy, is planning to develop four EPR reactors in the UK with a total capacity of 6.4 GW. The firm already owns land at Bradwell in Essex and has agreed to sell this, and the land acquired in the auction, if it makes progress in the development of nuclear plants at its two preferred sites – Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk.

In total, the French and German companies’ plans mean that planned new nuclear capacity in the UK exceeds existing nuclear capacity.

“The successful outcome of this site auction is yet more evidence of major energy players gearing up for investment in low carbon energy in the UK,” said the UK’s Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband. “Alongside EDF Energy’s firm plans, the RWE and E.On joint venture plans announced today take the total declared plans for the first phase of new build to 12.4 GW, greater than our existing, but ageing, nuclear capacity.”

The GDF Suez-Iberdrola-SSE consortium says that it remains committed to its plans to develop new nuclear build in the UK and would now focus on other potential sites to be auctioned by the NDA and other owners. It believes that the government’s aim to have several players active in the country’s nuclear market will help to ensure that it has a role.

RWE and E.On have warned that the acquisition of the land is just a first step. “These investments emphasise our commitment to developing secure low-CO2 energy options for the UK,” said RWE npower CEO Andrew Duff. “We now expect and look forward to seeing equally strong commitment from the government to deliver efficient planning and technology licensing processes, effective resourcing of the nuclear regulator, and common standards and reference designs with the EU.

“This must be set in the context of a predictable, long term, regulatory framework for the energy markets.”

The RWE-E.On joint venture says its focus will now be on building relationships with local communities and regulators as further detailed technical assessments of the sites at Oldbury and Wylfa take place.