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France's nuclear power goals will be known by end of October - minister

PARIS (Reuters) - France, the world’s most nuclear-dependent country, will announce target dates for adjustments to the national energy mix in late October, the newly appointed environment minister said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: French Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition Francois de Rugy (2nd R), flanked with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, French Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud and French Minister for the Territorial Cohesion Jacques Mezard, looks on during his first weekly cabinet meeting, following a government reshuffle the day before, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France September 5, 2018. Ludovic Marin/Pool by Reuters/File Photo

Francois de Rugy assumed the ministerial role on Tuesday after the departure of Nicolas Hulot, who quit in part over what he saw as the government’s slow progress in moving away from its dependence on nuclear power.

De Rugy gave no signal of what changes to the mix he would want to see, saying only that the end of next month was the deadline for unveiling a multi-year energy production programme. A first draft of that programme was originally expected during the summer, with a fuller version to be completed by year-end.

“There’ll be a multi-year programme for energy and we will be in a position to present that at the end of October,” he told France Inter radio. “The issue is obviously not a simple one.”

President Emmanuel Macron campaigned on a promise to respect an energy law introduced by the previous Socialist government. That law calls on France to cut its reliance on nuclear energy to 50 percent by 2025 from 75 percent now, the highest level in the world.

Macron has already pushed back the target date to 2035, something to which Hulot had reluctantly agreed.

De Rugy, who did not specify whether the end-October plan would be a first draft or definitive, would not be drawn on how targets may change further but said the government aimed to rebalance the production mix in line with the legislative commitment made in 2015.

“That’s to say, how the law that we adopted will be applied - something that was not done before now, in terms of each type of energy and the transformation we want with development of renewable energy sources,” he said.

Some commentators believe de Rugy will be more pliable than Hulot, who said France’s environmental commitments - including those under the global pact on climate change adopted under France’s chairmanship of the negotiations - were not given necessary priority under Macron.

De Rugy sidestepped questions about the influence that state-controlled power giant EDF has over policy given its huge presence in nuclear energy. It has 58 plants in France and plans to build more.

“EDF is a big company which knows how to make itself heard,” he said.

Reporting by Brian Love; Editing by Dale Hudson