The focus of this overview for this issue of Nuclear Technology, which contains papers presented at the American Nuclear Society Advances in Nuclear Fuel Management III (ANFM-III) 2004 topical meeting, is to introduce the subject of nuclear fuel management for light water reactors. A total of 23 papers was presented on this topic at ANFM-III. Nuclear fuel management involves making the so-called out-of-core and in-core decisions. Simply put, the out-of-core decisions address the attributes of the new (fresh) fuel that will be fabricated and the partially burnt (shuffled) fuel to reinsert into the core for additional energy production. The in-core decisions address where the fresh and burnt fuel along with burnable poisons should be located in the core. The above applies to batch refueling strategies, e.g., pressurized water reactors and boiling water reactors (BWRs). For BWRs, additional in-core decisions enter to address control rod pattern paired with core flow rate as a function of burnup. It is obvious that the out-of-core and in-core decisions are coupled.
The objective of nuclear fuel management is to minimize the cost of electrical energy generation subject to operational and safety constraints. Since fuel resides in the core for several cycles, a multicycle assessment is required to make nuclear fuel management decisions. For nearly four decades there has been an effort to develop automated computational capability to assist the reload core nuclear design engineer in making nuclear fuel management decisions. This development has ranged from employment of heuristic rules to utilization of mathematical optimization approaches. This overview reviews the development of nuclear fuel management optimization capabilities by first defining the problem, then describing current capabilities, and finally projecting where future capabilities need to be developed to support the needs of reload core nuclear design engineers.