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London — Record high nuclear power generation in 2018 helped Vattenfall boost production 3.4% year on year to 90.5 TWh, the Swedish state utility said in its annual results Thursday.

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Nuclear availability of 88.9% was up four percentage points from 2017, with reactors Ringhals 1 and 4 producing more power in a calendar year than ever before.

"In nuclear power we are seeing the results of our hard work with efficiency improvement, where generation for the year reached a record high 55 TWh," Vattenfall CEO Magnus Hall said.

Vattenfall's nuclear improvement program has seen generation costs decline from SEK240/MWh ($26/MWh, Eur23/MWh) in 2017 to SEK210/MWh in 2018. For 2021 the goal is SEK190/MWh, it said.

Hydro production of 35.5 TWh was stable on year despite dry weather through the summer.

Current Nordic hydro reservoir content is 10 TWh lower year on year, according to Nord Pool.

Wind production of 7.8 TWh was only a modest rise on 2017 as capacity additions were offset by lower wind speeds.

Heat sales of 18.3 TWh edged down, while spreads for both gas and coal derived heat were down on higher fuel and CO2 costs.

In terms of forward sales, Vattenfall said its Nordic generation was 69% hedged at Eur29/MWh for 2019, 37% hedged at Eur31/MWh for 2020, and 18% hedged at Eur33/MWh for 2021.

"Granted, [Nordic] electricity prices have been high, but since Vattenfall's risk management entails we continuously hedge our electricity sales, this effect did not bear impact during the year," Hall said.

While today Vattenfall only hedges Nordic electricity sales, the utility still had forward contracts coupled to continental markets that served to offset last year's strong nuclear and hydro earnings, he said. This impact would diminish as the contracts successively expired.

With future strategy focused on renewables, Vattenfall is set to invest 75% (SEK24 billion) of 2019-20 growth investment on wind.

End-2018 installed wind capacity of 2.842 GW was up just 73 MW on the year, but there were significant milestones during the period, including first power from Denmark's largest offshore wind farm Horns Rev 3 (407 MW) and success in the Dutch tender for the 700-MW Hollandse Kust 1 & 2 concession.

--Henry Edwardes-Evans,

--Edited by Jonathan Dart,