* Rossi replaces unit's longtime CEO de Rivaz
* New UK chief needs to keep nuclear plans on track
* Rossi is former EDF Energy CFO, knows nuclear projects
PARIS, June 13 (Reuters) - French utility EDF has appointed an Italian who heads its international operations to run its British unit that is handling the construction of two new nuclear reactors, EDF said.
Simone Rossi, 47, will take up the post of chief executive at British Energy in mid-July, succeeding Vincent de Rivaz, who is retiring after 15 years as CEO of the unit.
Rossi, who joined EDF in 2004, will be in charge of the 18 billion pound ($23 billion) project to build two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C on Britain's west coast.
The contract was signed in September 2016 and construction began this year. The reactors are due to start up in 2025.
Rossi's role will include keeping the project on track, when similar Areva-designed European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) projects in France, Finland and China are running late and over budget.
"There will be a change of style. De Rivaz was a bulldozer who battled for years to get the contract signed. Rossi is a fine strategist, who listens to people," said an EDF executive who has worked with both men.
Rossi, who was chief financial officer of EDF Energy from 2011 to 2015, also previously held the post of CFO at EDF's U.S. joint venture Constellation Energy Nuclear Group before EDF pulled out of U.S. nuclear industry.
As head of EDF's international operations, Rossi oversaw EDF investments in Africa and Latin America, including the Bolero solar plant in Chile, hydro power projects in Cameroon and Brazil and an off-grid solar project in West Africa.
Rossi, a clarinet player, will in his new role have to navigate the UK energy market where EDF is one of six big suppliers facing public and government criticism for energy bills that have doubled in the past decade to about 1,200 pounds ($1,640) a year.
The ruling Conservative Party pledged to cap domestic energy prices in its election campaign, but Prime Minister Theresa May's failure to secure a majority in last week's poll could reduce the risk of more state intervention in power pricing.
Following the appointment of Marc Benayoun to lead EDF's Italian unit Edison early last year, EDF Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy has now put his imprint on the two most important EDF business units abroad.
($1 = 0.7847 pounds) (Additional reporting by Karolin Schaps in London; Editing by Edmund Blair)