William J. Nuttall

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcino, Catalonia, Spain

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Publications (75)337.42 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Electricity generated from nuclear power plants is generally associated with low emissions per kWh generated, an aspect that feeds into the wider debate surrounding nuclear power. This paper seeks to investigate how life-cycle emissions would be affected by including thorium in the nuclear fuel cycle, and in particular its inclusion in technologies that could prospectively operate open Th–U-based nuclear fuel cycles. Three potential Th–U-based systems operating with open nuclear fuel cycles are considered: AREVA’s European Pressurised Reactor; India’s Advanced Heavy Water Reactor; and General Atomics’ Gas-Turbine Modular Helium Reactor. These technologies are compared to a reference U-fuelled European Pressurised Reactor. A life-cycle analysis is performed that considers the construction, operation, and decommissioning of each of the reactor technologies and all of the other associated facilities in the open nuclear fuel cycle. This includes the development of life-cycle analysis models to describe the extraction of thorium from monazitic beach sands and for the production of heavy water. The results of the life-cycle impact analysis highlight that the reference U-fuelled system has the lowest overall emissions per kWh generated, predominantly due to having the second-lowest uranium ore requirement per kWh generated. The results highlight that the requirement for mined or recovered uranium (and thorium) ore is the greatest overall contributor to emissions, with the possible exception of nuclear energy systems that require heavy water. In terms of like-for-like comparison of mining and recovery techniques, thorium from monazitic beach sands has lower overall emissions than uranium that is either conventionally mined or recovered from in-situ leaching. Although monazitic beach sands (and equivalent placer deposits) only form 30% of the overall known thorium ore deposits, it is expected that such deposits would generally be utilised first if thorium becomes a viable nuclear fuel. Overall, for these four nuclear energy technologies, the range of CO2(eq) emissions per kWh generated (6.60–13.2 gCO2(eq)/kWh) appears to be low in comparison to the majority of electricity-generating technologies.
    Energy Conversion and Management 09/2015; 101. DOI:10.1016/j.enconman.2015.04.041 · 3.59 Impact Factor
  • Ettore Bompard, Marcelo Masera, William J. Nuttall
    Technological Forecasting and Social Change 07/2015; 96:327-333. DOI:10.1016/j.techfore.2014.07.006 · 1.71 Impact Factor
  • Matthew Rooney, William J. Nuttall, Nikolaos Kazantzis
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    ABSTRACT: In order to study the global uranium market, a dynamic model for the period 1990–2050 has been developed. It incorporates globally aggregated stocks and flows of uranium moving through the nuclear fuel cycle, as well as a price formation mechanism. Analysis illustrates some of the key features of the market for this commodity, including the role that time lags play in the formation of price volatility. Specific demand reduction and substitution strategies and technologies are explored, and potential external shocks are simulated to investigate the effect on price and how the uranium mining industry responds. Sensitivity analysis of key model parameters indicates that the time constant related to the formation of traders׳ expectations of future market prices embedded in the proposed price discovery mechanism has a strong influence on both the amplitude and frequency of price peaks. Finally, our analysis leads us to believe that the existing uranium resource base will be sufficient to satisfy demand well into the second half of the 21st century.
    Resources Policy 03/2015; 43. DOI:10.1016/j.resourpol.2014.11.003 · 2.14 Impact Factor
  • Energy 02/2015; 168(1):1-14. DOI:10.1680/ener.14.00018 · 4.16 Impact Factor
  • William J. Nuttall, Peter Storey
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    ABSTRACT: The paper describes current policy issues relating to a range of nuclear research reactors. The benefits of, and the need for, such reactors are described including in areas such as medicine and energy research. Emphasis is given to the potential risks in the areas of security and non-proliferation. Assessment is made of future technology policy options for the United Kingdom and the opportunity of a developing a new highly proliferation resistant reactor is explored. The possibility of collaborating with another country in such an endeavour is considered.
    Progress in Nuclear Energy 11/2014; 77:201–213. DOI:10.1016/j.pnucene.2014.05.007 · 0.88 Impact Factor
  • Eben Upton, W.J. Nuttall
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    ABSTRACT: The United Kingdom has twice suffered major disruptions as a result of fuel panics, first in September 2000, coincident with a wave of fuel protests, and, more recently, in March 2012, following political warnings of a possible future supply chain disruption. In each case, the disruption and economic consequences were serious. In this paper, we demonstrate that agent-based techniques offer a powerful framework for simulation of supply chains and consumers under conditions of transient demand. In the case of fuel panic crisis, we show that even a highly abstract model can reproduce a range of transient phenomena seen in the real world and present a set of practical recommendations for policymakers faced with panic buying.
    IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems 08/2014; 15(4):1499-1509. DOI:10.1109/TITS.2014.2302358 · 2.47 Impact Factor
  • Malcolm Grimston, William J Nuttall, Geoff Vaughan
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    ABSTRACT: Choosing a suitable site for a nuclear power station requires the consideration and balancing of several factors. Some 'physical' site characteristics, such as the local climate and the potential for seismic activity, will be generic to all reactors designs, while others, such as the availability of cooling water, the area of land required and geological conditions capable of sustaining the weight of the reactor and other buildings will to an extent be dependent on the particular design of reactor chosen (or alternatively the reactor design chosen may to an extent be dependent on the characteristics of an available site). However, one particularly interesting tension is a human and demographic one. On the one hand it is beneficial to place nuclear stations close to centres of population, to reduce transmission losses and other costs (including to the local environment) of transporting electricity over large distances from generator to consumer. On the other it is advantageous to place nuclear stations some distance away from such population centres in order to minimise the potential human consequences of a major release of radioactive materials in the (extremely unlikely) event of a major nuclear accident, not only in terms of direct exposure but also concerning the management of emergency planning, notably evacuation.
    Journal of Radiological Protection 04/2014; 34(2):R1-R24. DOI:10.1088/0952-4746/34/2/R1 · 1.32 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this study, we have sought to determine the advantages, disadvantages, and viability of open cycle thorium–uranium-fuelled (Th–U-fuelled) nuclear energy systems. This has been done by assessing three such systems, each of which requires uranium enriched to ∼20% 235U, in comparison to a reference uranium-fuelled (U-fuelled) system over various performance indicators, spanning material flows, waste composition, economics, and proliferation resistance. The values of these indicators were determined using the UK National Nuclear Laboratory’s fuel cycle modelling code ORION. This code required the results of lattice-physics calculations to model the neutronics of each nuclear energy system, and these were obtained using various nuclear reactor physics codes and burn-up routines. In summary, all three Th–U-fuelled nuclear energy systems required more separative work capacity than the equivalent benchmark U-fuelled system, with larger levelised fuel cycle costs and larger levelised cost of electricity. Although a reduction of ∼6% in the required uranium ore per kWh was seen for one of the Th–U-fuelled systems compared to the reference U-fuelled system, the other two Th–U-fuelled systems required more uranium ore per kWh than the reference. Negligible advantages and disadvantages were observed for the amount and the properties of the spent nuclear fuel (SNF) generated by the systems considered. Two of the Th–U-fuelled systems showed some benefit in terms of proliferation resistance of the SNF generated. Overall, it appears that there is little merit in incorporating thorium into nuclear energy systems operating with open nuclear fuel cycles.
    Annals of Nuclear Energy 03/2014; 69:314–330. DOI:10.1016/j.anucene.2014.01.042 · 1.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: As we enter the second century of superconductivity, helium still prevails as the cryogenic coolant of choice. What does the future of helium hold? What can be done to avoid the squandering of this precious resource? In our presentation, we will discuss the use of cryogenic hydrogen originated from renewable and low-CO2 emission sources. We suggest that 20 K of liquid hydrogen can ultimately displace helium as an indirect coolant in a range of superconducting electromagnetic devices. As is already well documented, superconductors have much potential underpinning the future developments in transportation, energy supply/storage and also in medical applications. Although superconductors that can operate at liquid hydrogen temperatures, such as MgB2 and YBa2Cu3O7, are not yet truly commercially available, research indicates that these will be feasible in the near future.
    Journal of Superconductivity and Novel Magnetism 02/2014; 28(2). DOI:10.1007/s10948-014-2660-7 · 0.93 Impact Factor
  • Ettore Bompard, Marcelo Masera, William J. Nuttall
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    ABSTRACT: •Electricity smart and super grids could undermine, rather than reinforce, one another.•Complexities shaping the future grid are more than those from within the grid itself.•The conceptual framework for assessing emerging electricity systems must shift.•Electricity policy makers and managers must take a holistic and complexity-based view.
    Technological Forecasting and Social Change 01/2014; · 1.71 Impact Factor
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  • Ettore Bompard, Marcelo Masera, William J Nuttall
    Nature 08/2013; 500(7462):276. DOI:10.1038/500276c · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Helium plays a central role in superconductivity. Despite breakthroughs in high-temperature superconducting materials, helium remains the coolant of choice. Against this there is concern about helium shortages. Global geological helium reserves are estimated to be approximately 8 million tons and are mainly in the U.S., Qatar, Algeria, and Russia. Annual helium production from natural gas runs at approximately 30 000 tons and is distributed across a few players, both public and private: the U.S. government, Air Liquide, Air Products, Linde Group, Matheson, Messer, and Praxair. Currently, the natural gas industry focuses insufficiently on the helium that remains blended throughout the gas supply chain until it is “vented” upon combustion. This constrains new supply development. These factors combine to create waves of market anxiety. Consideration of demand reveals a diversity of government, public, and private buyers each of whom perceives their needs, and how much they are willing to pay, differently. For more than 100 years, researchers in low-temperature physics and especially superconductivity have been dependent on liquid helium supply. Currently the cryogenics and super-conductivity users consume ~ 29% of the global helium supply and 3/4 of that is taken by the magnetic resonance imaging/nuclear magnetic resonance market. These users are already responding to helium price increases by developing liquid cryogen-free technologies to gain independence from the helium market. The purpose of this article is to explore options facing the global helium industry and helium users in an attempt to answer the question: what is the future of helium and how would that influence the cryogenic and superconductivity market? We consider the future options for current users such as: discontinuing helium-related activities; continuing to pay higher helium prices; running expensive onsite storage/reliquefaction helium systems; deploying costly cryogen-free low-te- perature installation; influencing policy on the global industry extracting and distributing helium from natural gas or developing new, disruptive technologies that may reduce helium demand.
    IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity 06/2013; 23(3):0500113-0500113. DOI:10.1109/TASC.2013.2244633 · 1.32 Impact Factor
  • Energy 05/2013; 166(2):74-81. DOI:10.1680/ener.13.00003 · 4.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A comprehensive Net Present Value (NPV) model has been developed to demonstrate the economic advantages of process safety and risk reduction investments on Pd/Au-based membrane reactors. In particular, the economic viability of Pd/Au-based membrane reactor modules incorporated into Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants is evaluated within the aforementioned framework by pro-actively following sound process safety design principles. Sources of irreducible uncertainty (market, technological, operational) as well as safety risk are explicitly recognized, such as the Pd/Au prices, membrane life-time and loss in the power plant capacity factor due to possible accidents. The effect of the above uncertainty drivers on the membrane module cost along with production disruption and associated revenue losses is elucidated using Monte-Carlo simulation techniques that enable the propagation of the above uncertain inputs through the NPV-model, and therefore, generate a more realistic distribution of the process system's value rather than a single-point/estimate that overlooks these uncertainties. Pre-investment on risk reducing measures, such as spare safety relief systems (cautionary redundancy) for membrane reactor modules operating at high pressures (e.g. 50 atm), is shown to be economically more attractive than cases where analogous safety measures are not implemented. Since accidents and possibly catastrophic events do happen in an uncertain world, additional investment on safety measures could ensure a safer and more profitable operation of the process system under consideration giving credence to the thesis that process safety investments may result in enhanced techno-economic performance in the presence of irreducible uncertainties.
    Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries 05/2013; 26(3):468–477. DOI:10.1016/j.jlp.2012.07.012 · 1.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Simple chemical pathways open up proliferation possibilities for the proposed nuclear 'wonder fuel', warn Stephen F. Ashley and colleagues.
    Nature 12/2012; 492(7427):31-33. DOI:10.1038/492031a · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pd/alloy-based (Pd/Cu, Pd/Au) membrane reactors embedded into Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plants (IGCC-MR) enable the storage and/or use of the energy value of H2 to produce electricity while the CO2 enriched retentate exit stream becomes particularly suitable for high pressure CO2 capture-sequestration. There is undoubtedly a lack of operating experience associated with IGCC-MR plants, and therefore, sound process intensification principles/practices should be followed not only to enhance process system performance but also to ensure process safety and economic feasibility of an IGCC-MR plant. Motivated by the above considerations, a comprehensive process economic assessment framework for an inherently safe membrane Pd/alloy-based reactor integrated into an IGCC plant is proposed. In particular, a detailed Net Present Value (NPV) model has been developed to evaluate the economic viability of an IGCC-MR plant where the membrane reactor module design conforms to basic inherent safety principles. Sources of irreducible uncertainty (market, regulatory and technological) are explicitly recognized such as the power plant capacity factor, Pd price, membrane life time and CO2-taxes due to future regulatory action/policies. The effect of the above uncertainty drivers on the project's/plant's value is studied through Monte Carlo methods resulting in detailed NPV-distribution and process economic outcome profiles. The simulation results derived suggest that in the presence of (operational, economic and regulatory) uncertainties, inherently safe membrane reactor technology options integrated into IGCC plants could become economically viable. In particular, comparatively more attractive NPV distribution profiles are obtained when concrete safety risk-reducing measures are taken into account through pre-investment in process safety (equipment).
    Process Safety and Environmental Protection 09/2012; 90(5):436–450. DOI:10.1016/j.psep.2012.07.004 · 1.50 Impact Factor
  • William J Nuttall, Richard H Clarke, Bartek A Glowacki
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    ABSTRACT: Establish a global agency to build a sustainable market for this precious commodity, say William J. Nuttall, Richard H. Clarke and Bartek A. Glowacki.
    Nature 05/2012; 485(7400):573-5. DOI:10.1038/485573a · 42.35 Impact Factor
  • William J. Nuttall, Richard H. Clarke, Bartek A. Glowacki
    Nature 05/2012; 485(7400):573-575. · 42.35 Impact Factor
  • Source
    S F Ashley, W J Nuttall, G T Parks, A Worrall
    UK PONI Annual Conference 2012: ‘Nuclear Stability: From the Cuban Crisis to the Energy Crisis’, HMS President, Victoria Embankment, EC4Y 0HJ; 05/2012

Publication Stats

564 Citations
337.42 Total Impact Points


  • 2015
    • Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
      Barcino, Catalonia, Spain
  • 2014–2015
    • Milton Keynes College
      Milton Keynes, England, United Kingdom
  • 2005–2013
    • University of Cambridge
      • Cambridge Judge Business School
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 1998–2002
    • University of Birmingham
      Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
  • 1995–1999
    • Keele University
      Newcastle-under-Lyme, England, United Kingdom