Vincent de Rivaz , the head of EDF Energy (Euronext: EDF), has rejected predictions that France’s new president could force it to ditch its big investment in new nuclear reactors in the UK.

“Our plans in the UK are not going to be impacted by the change in France,” said de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, the UK subsidiary of the French utility Electricite de France, in an interview quoted in the FT. “There’s nothing in what Mr Hollande said in his campaign to suggest that they will.”

Vincent de Rivaz

With its partner Centrica, the owner of British Gas, EDF intends to build two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset by 2019.

However during his election campaign, Mr François Hollande proposed reducing the country’s dependence on nuclear power from 75 per cent to 50 per cent and shutting 24 of France’s 58 reactors by 2025.

Following pull-outs by Eon and RWE from commitments to UK nuclear reactor builds a further opt out by EDF would represent a serious blow to the UK nuclear strategy.

Despite the new president’s anti-nuclear rhetoric, Mr de Rivaz said he was confident Mr Hollande would back EDF’s plans. “This project is a formidable opportunity for French and British industry,” he said.

But he added that 2012 would be a “defining year” for British nuclear power, and it was crucial to keep up reforms of Britain’s electricity market to make it more attractive for renewables and nuclear investments. “A lot remains to be done,” he said.

The UK government included a new energy bill in last week’s Queen’s Speech that provides incentives for low carbon generation.

The bill would create “contracts for difference” – top-up payments to nuclear and renewables operators if wholesale power prices fall below an agreed strike price.

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