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A nuclear reactor and related factilities as part of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant, to be operated by China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGN), is seen under construction in Taishan, Guangdong province, October 17, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's nuclear developers must seek the consent of local stakeholders before going ahead with new projects, according to draft rules published by the country's cabinet on Monday.

Developers will need to assess the impact a nuclear project will have on social stability and solicit public opinion through hearings or announcements, the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council said.

China is in the middle of a rapid nuclear reactor building programme and aims to have 58 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in full commercial operation by the end of 2020, up from 30.7 GW at the end of July.

But despite a strong safety record at existing plants, the government has struggled to convince the public about the safety of nuclear power.

Protests in the eastern coastal city of Lianyungang last month led to the cancellation of a proposed $15 billion (£11.5 billion) nuclear waste processing plant.

"Japan's Fukushima accident once again created doubt about the safety of nuclear power among the public, and also caused feelings of fear and opposition to occur from time to time," the Legislative Affairs Office said in a statement.

It said the new draft rules would improve information disclosure and allow the public to participate more actively in the construction and supervision of nuclear projects.

The Legislative Affairs Office has made the draft guidelines available to the public and will accept suggestions until Oct. 19, it said in a notice posted on its website (http://www.chinalaw.gov.cn).

A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency said this month that China's "unparalleled" nuclear expansion would pose challenges for its regulators, and more work needed to be done in areas such as waste management and the handling of ageing reactors.

(Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Jason Neely)

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