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GDF Suez and Iberdrola team up to bid for nuclear power sites in the UK

GDF Suez and Iberdrola are the latest European energy giants to join forces in the hope of securing a slice of the UK's multibillion-pound nuclear renaissance.

The joint venture between the two companies – which are French and Spanish, respectively – will be bidding for sites being sold off by the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) in the coming months. GDF Suez is joining a partnership already in place between Iberdrola, which also owns Scottish Power, and Scottish and Southern Energy. The consortium may yetexpand further, the participants said yesterday.

Suppliers from across Europe are lining up to take part in the UK'snuclear new build programme,prompted by the need to replace a third of electricity generating capacity in the next 15 years as ageing reactors are taken out of commission, European environmental regulations bite and North Sea oil and gas reserves dwindle.

The NDA started the process to sell land adjacent to three existing power stations in January. The Iberdrola-GDF Suez group will be bidding against two other European teams.

One is EDF, the French utility giant that took over British Energy last year for £12.5bn. A 25 per cent stake of that group is now being taken by Centrica, the UK utility, and the venture is committed to building one nuclear power station by 2017 and another three plants by 2025.

The other is a joint venture set up by RWE and E.On, the two German utilities, last month with the stated intention of building at least four reactors in the UK, adding at least six gigawatts, or around 10 per cent of the UK's current installed capacity.

The deadline for expressions ofinterest in the first three NDA sites to go under the hammer – at Wylfa in Anglesey, Bradwell in Essex and Oldbury in Gloucestershire – was last month. The next stage in the bidding process is in March.

GDF Suez was created last year by a merger of France's former state gas company with Suez, a Belgian group.

Utilities are not the only companies jostling for a position in the new market. In December Rolls-Royce, Balfour Beatty and Areva, the French reactor maker, signed up to a partnershipexpected to create up to 15,000 long-term manufacturing and construction jobs in the revived industry.