The control characteristics of a load-following pressurized water reactor are investigated through the application of a nonlinear optimization method to a simplified plant simulator. A model describing the power level control and power distribution control is developed and used to formulate an optimal control problem. In the optimal control problem formulation, all of the safety and system operating limits are included as hard constraints, and the multiple objective functionals are combined into a single performance index. The differences in the calculated optimal load-following control strategies are investigated for the cases of steady-state T(avg) (coolant average temperature) program operation and variable T(avg) operation at both beginning-of-cycle and near end-of-cycle conditions. The results show that the amount of boron control action for the demanded load variations can be significantly reduced when variable T(avg) operation is incorporated into the control policy.