As the nuclear renaissance is now upon us and new plants are either under construction or being ordered, a considerable amount of attention has also turned to the design of the first fuel cycle. Requirements for core designs originate in the Utilities Requirements Document (URD) for the United States and the European Utilities Requirements (EUR) for Europe. First core designs created during the development of these documents were based on core design technology dating back to the 1970’s, where the first cycle core loading pattern placed the highest enrichment fuel on the core periphery and two other lower enrichments in the core interior. While this sort of core design provided acceptable performance, it underutilized the higher enriched fuel assemblies and tended to make transition to the first reload cycle challenging, especially considering that reload core designs are now almost entirely of the Low Leakage Loading Pattern (LLLP) design. The demands placed on today’s existing fleet of pressurized water reactors for improved fuel performance and economy are also desired for the upcoming Generation III+ fleet of plants. As a result of these demands, Westinghouse has developed an Advanced First Core (AFCPP) design for the initial cycle loading pattern. This loading pattern design simulates the reactivity distribution of an 18 month low leakage reload cycle design by placing the higher enriched assemblies in the core interior which results in improved uranium utilization for those fuel assemblies carried through the first and second reload cycles. Another feature of the advanced first core design is radial zoning of the high enriched assemblies, which allows these assemblies to be located in the core interior while still maintaining margin to peaking factor limits throughout the cycle. Finally, the advanced first core loading pattern also employs a variety of burnable absorber designs and lengths to yield radial and axial power distributions very similar to those found in typical low leakage reload cycle designs. This paper will describe each of these key features and demonstrate the operating margins of the AFC design and the ability of the AFC design to allow easy transition into 18 month low leakage reload cycles. The fuel economics of the AFC design will also be compared to those of a more traditional first core loading pattern.

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