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Nuclear woes boost power prices in Europe as winter approaches

As summer draws to a close, fresh concerns over nuclear availability in Belgium and France amid uncertain renewables production have propelled wholesale electricity prices higher in European power markets, market sources said Thursday.

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"French and Belgian markets are the main drivers right now. [EU CO2 allowances] are also strongly bullish and it is helping prices going up further. November 2018 reached almost Eur100/MWh in Belgium," a German trader said.

"Panic is playing a key role on the market."

Wholesale power prices in Belgium and France extended gains Thursday, a day after Belgium's nuclear regulator FANC underscored the requirement for Engie-Electrabel to demonstrate Tihange-2 and Doel-4 on-site buildings' resistance to external impact before generation can resume, triggering talk that reactors might face possible delays to restart.

In France, EDF's 880 MW Fessenheim-2 nuclear reactor was hit by an unplanned outage early Thursday, cutting capacity to zero until the end of the outage on Monday.

In addition, another trader said there was "some uncertainty regarding how much wind and how cold [it is going to get], plus outages in France," which was driving prices up.

The front-month October baseload contract in France jumped more than Eur3 to change hands at Eur73.50/MWh, while the German counterpart rose Eur2 to Eur62.75/MWh. The front-month in Italy posted similar gains to Eur78.10/MWh.

"Next week there will be a huge amount of wind and its impact would be useful to understand the risk premium on the month ahead in Germany," a trader said.

According to spotrenewables, wind in Germany was forecast to soar to 40 GW Monday from 13.5 GW Sunday. Traders expected strong wind for next week (Week 40).

On the far curve, bullish carbon and generating fuel prices also lent support to power prices.

German Calendar 2019 baseload power was last seen trading at Eur55.40/MWh, up more than Eur2 from Wednesday's EEX settle.

EUAs for December 2018 saw more than a Eur1 surge to Eur22.89/mt Thursday afternoon, while European front-year coal rose to $98/mt in the morning, up 40 cents.

--Anuradha Ramanathan, anuradha.ramanathan@spglobal.com

--Edited by Pankti Mehta, pankti.mehta@spglobal.com