A complete solution for a soluble-boron-free (SBF) small modular reactor (SMR) is pursued with a new burnable absorber concept, namely centrally-shielded burnable absorber (CSBA). Neutronic flexibility of the CSBA design has been discussed with fuel assembly (FA) analyses. Major design parameters and goals of the SBF SMR are discussed in view of the reactor core design and three CSBA designs are introduced to achieve both a very low burnup reactivity swing (BRS) and minimal residual reactivity of the CSBA. It is demonstrated that the core achieves a long cycle length (similar to 37 months) and high burnup (similar to 30 GWd/tU), while the BRS is only about 1100 pcm and the radial power distribution is rather flat. This research also introduces a supplementary reactivity control mechanism using stainless steel as mechanical shim (MS) rod to obtain the criticality during normal operation. A further analysis is performed to investigate the local power peaking of the CSBA-loaded FA at MS-rodded condition. Moreover, a simple 6 4 C-based control rod arrangement is proposed to assure a sufficient shutdown margin even at the cold-zero-power condition. All calculations in this neutronic-thermal hydraulic coupled investigation of the 3D SBF SMR core are completed by a two-step Monte Carlo-diffusion hybrid methodology. (C) 2018 Korean Nuclear Society, Published by Elsevier Korea LLC.