Thermal Utilization Factor
The value of the thermal utilization factor is given by the ratio of the number of thermal neutrons absorbed in the fuel (all nuclides) to the number of thermal neutrons absorbed in all the material that makes up the core.
f ~ 0.70
Main operational changes, that affect this factor:
The thermal utilization factor slightly changes with the fuel burnup. The fresh fuel at the beginning of the cycle comprises only the absorption by the 235U. As the amount of 239Pu and other higher transuranic elements increases because of the radiative capture of neutron by the 238U in the core, it is necessary to consider the change of fuel composition in determining the value of f at different times of the fuel cycle.
In general, the thermal utilization factor decreases in time as the total content of fissile isotopes decreases and the total content of neutron poisons (fission products with high absorption cross-sections) increases. But in the power reactors, in which the criticality must be maintained for long period (e.g. 12-month or up to 24-month) without refueling, the thermal utilization factor may not decrease. Such the decrease would imply inevitable reactor shutdown. The continuous decrease in ΣaU must be offset by the continuous decrease in ΣaB, which means the concentration of boric acid (in case of PWRs) must be continuously decreased as the fuel loses its reactivity (kinf). For reactors, in which the chemical shim can not be used, the excess of reactivity is compensated by compensating rods.On the other hand, there is the fuel breeding, which plays very important role in the compensation of decreasing 235U content.