US Bitcoin Miners to Use “Micro” Nuclear Reactors For Clean Energy
Bitcoin miners have figured out a way to use a large amount of excess nuclear power that would otherwise go wasted. By striking deals with the operators of struggling nuclear plants, Bitcoin miners can receive stable and carbon-free energy while saving nuclear power plants from going out of business.
Miners Shift to Nuclear Power Amid Environmental Concerns
Articles describing crypto mining as wasteful and the cause of environmental damage have been widely reported for a few years now. In mid-May this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk suspended vehicle purchases using Bitcoin, citing environmental concerns. A couple of days later, for this same reason, China vowed to crack down on cryptocurrency mining.
Now, in an act to address such concerns, some US Bitcoin miners are transitioning to nuclear power. By forging partnerships with nuclear-power plants with abundant electricity, Bitcoin miners get clean, carbon-free power that otherwise goes to waste.
The partnerships are not only valuable for Bitcoin miners but also benefit nuclear power plants. With cheaper power sources, such as oil collected through fracking, and increased competition from renewables such as wind and solar power, nuclear plants have been struggling to find new clients. However, some Bitcoin mining firms are now striking long-term partnerships with these plants – potentially solving one problem with another.
“Micro” Nuclear Reactors Also Eye Crypto Miners
Oklo, an energy startup that aims to create micro-nuclear reactors that run on used nuclear material, has struck a 20-year deal with Compass Mining, US-based Bitcoin mining and hosting firm.
With a small team of 22 people, Oklo aims to build mini-nuclear reactors. Notably, these small reactors would be powered by the waste of conventional nuclear reactors. Considering nuclear waste is highly radioactive and requires remote handling and shielding, Oklo is benefiting the environment while producing more power, thereby reducing the need for more nuclear waste to be created.
Jess Gehin, an associate laboratory director of the Nuclear Science and Technology Directorate at the Idaho National Laboratory, told CNBC:
“Oklo is planning to use uranium recovered from previously used Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II). As a result, the materials, which were previously destined for disposal, can be used to produce more energy.”
Moreover, Oklo wants to create very small nuclear reactors, small enough to power industrial sites, companies, and college campuses. Reportedly, the first Oklo reactor, dubbed Aurora, would have a capacity of 1.5 MWe. In comparison, nuclear power plants in the US have an average capacity of 582 megawatts (MW).
In the first phase of the partnership, Oklo is obliged to supply at least 150 MW of carbon-free, clean power to Compass. However, the project is scalable, with Oklo able to add “additional capacity to accelerate Compass’ sustainable mining efforts further while driving the economics of Bitcoin mining activities powered by advanced fission.”
More Partnerships Between Bitcoin Miners & Nuclear Power Plants
Talen Energy, an independent power producer that produces approximately 13,000 MW, has entered into a joint venture with the Bitcoin mining firm TeraWulf Inc. As per the announcement, Talen Energy would develop up to 300 Megawatts of zero-carbon Bitcoin mining capacity for a new TeraWulf mining facility, which would be the size of four football fields.
Alex Hernandez, Talen President, said:
“Our Nautilus Cryptomine [the Joint Venture] JV is another tangible expression of Talen’s transformation to a lower carbon and digital infrastructure future. Nautilus Cryptomine’s mining facilities will create zero-carbon coins with the appropriate regulatory overlay, mined in the United States in a secure location.”
Moreover, power producer Energy Harbor Corp. has entered into a five-year partnership with Standard Power “to provide clean, reliable, carbon-free electricity from its nuclear fleet to Standard Power’s new Bitcoin blockchain mining center in Coshocton, Ohio beginning in December 2021.”
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