This paper deals with an alternative numerical method for calculating depletion and production chains of the main isotopes found in a pressurized water reactor. It is based on the use of the exponentiation procedure coupled to orthogonal polynomial expansion to compute the transition matrix associated with the solution of the differential equations describing isotope concentrations in the nuclear reactor. Actually, the method was implemented in an automated nuclear reactor core design system that uses a quick and accurate 3D nodal method, the Nodal Expansion Method (NEM), aiming at solving the diffusion equation describing the spatial neutron distribution in the reactor. This computational system, besides solving the diffusion equation, also solves the depletion equations governing the gradual changes in material compositions of the core due to fuel depletion. The depletion calculation is the most time-consuming aspect of the nuclear reactor design code, and has to be done in a very precise way in order to obtain a correct evaluation of the economic performance of the nuclear reactor. In this sense, the proposed method was applied to estimate the critical boron concentration at the end of the cycle. Results were compared to measured values and confirm the effectiveness of the method for practical purposes.

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