* Long-delayed Taishan reactor to achieve "full power" by Q3
* 1st unit was originally scheduled for 2013 completion (Adds detail, background)
SHANGHAI, June 21 (Reuters) - The world's first European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), in China's Guangdong province, will be connected to the external power grid next month and will go into full operation in the third quarter of the year, China's nuclear safety body said on Thursday.
In comments published on its website, the National Nuclear Safety Administration said the first of two EPR units in the city of Taishan is currently running on a low-power testing basis after successfully reaching criticality on June 6. (nnsa.mep.gov.cn)
"The plan is to connect with the external power grid in July and achieve full-power operation in the third quarter," it said.
The Taishan project is 70 percent-owned by China General Nuclear Power (CGN), with the remainder controlled by French utility EDF.
The EPR, designed by France's Areva, is also being deployed in France, Finland and the China-invested Hinkley Point C project in Britain. But so far the technology has been subject to years of delays and big cost overruns.
China began building two units in 2009: the first was originally scheduled to go into operation in 2013, but will still be the world's first if it is completed this year.
The EPR's main foreign rival, the AP1000 designed by U.S.-based Westinghouse, is also expected to make its global debut in China in November this year after a four-year delay.
China aims to have 58 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear generation capacity by the end of this decade, up from 35.8 GW at the end of last year, and wants that to expand to around 150 GW by 2030.
The two rival third-generation reactor models were expected to play a big role in the country's ambitious nuclear reactor building plans. But the repeated delays mean they have now been joined by Russia's VVER-1200 design, as well as China's home-grown Hualong One brand.
Reporting by David Stanway Editing by Kenneth Maxwell