Nuclear power and Bitcoin mining are two industries that are often seen as being at odds with each other. Nuclear power is a relatively clean and efficient source of energy, while Bitcoin mining is being tagged as an “energy-intensive” process. However, there is a growing movement to use nuclear power to power Bitcoin mining operations.
During the Bitcoin 2023 Miami event, the use case of nuclear power for Bitcoin mining was one of the topics of discussion with Nazar Khan, COO of Terawulf Inc., and Maxim Serezhin, founder and CEO of Standard Power as panelists. Maxim said that nuclear power is important for Bitcoin mining as it provides baseload power for the miners.
Base load power refers to a consistent and uninterrupted power supply that is needed for continuous operations.
Nuclear power is considered one of the technologies that can provide 100% base load capacity, meaning it can generate a steady and constant power output. The CEO argues that nuclear power is renewable, although it is a subject of debate among experts.
In support of nuclear power for bitcoin mining, he added that because of the advantage of being able to generate electricity without significant environmental disruption, unlike large-scale land requirements for gas or solar facilities, the US government should reconsider its definition of “green” to include nuclear technology.
While nuclear power does have its own mining component, the speaker believes that combining nuclear power with Bitcoin mining creates a dynamic where both can benefit.
Maxim noted that one huge advantage of nuclear power for mining bitcoin is maximizing energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness by leveraging the benefits of nuclear power’s stable and abundant energy supply.
Nazar added that the subsidies introduced to support nuclear generators in the US can ensure their continued operation, making them available for Bitcoin mining.
Bitcoin mining, as a responsive load, can complement nuclear facilities by providing a reliable and profitable use of excess energy. He said that by partnering with Bitcoin miners, nuclear generators can maintain their economic viability while contributing to decarbonization efforts.
Nuclear energy provides base load
The CEO of Standard Power said that the base load advantage of nuclear power is vital to operations such as bitcoin mining, as technologies offering 100% base load are limited.
In the context of electricity, baseload is the minimum amount of power that must be available at all times to meet the demand of a power grid.
Base load power plants are typically large, slow-to-start plants that can run for long periods of time without refueling. They are often used to generate electricity from fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, or nuclear power.
How miners should work with nuclear energy firms
Nazar advised that since miners and nuclear operators are in two different businesses, the two sectors need to consider the differences in how they perceive time relative to their operations.
While the former is more short-term focused, the latter is long-term focused. Other considerations he mentioned were the cost of building the mining site, safety, and maintenance.
He noted that the relationship with his company and nuclear energy firms in terms of maintenance and safety has “forced us to be a lot more precise with respect to how we’re doing it.
Maxim added that the capital base is another essential aspect of working in the sector. Miners need to “leverage the capital base of the energy company” and, alongside the generation, companies need to identify open loads (areas with excess energy) “or be on their planned schedule.” He also sees the importance of AI in providing efficient data that connects nuclear energy companies with Bitcoin mining companies.
Dealing with the challenges of nuclear energy
Maxim, in support of the use of nuclear energy for bitcoin mining, highlighted that the operation also comes with challenges, especially those connected with the nuclear energy sector. An example is waste and its environmental impact.
He said that while these are concerns, there are advancements in science and remediation technologies that are making it easier to address them. He also emphasized the regulatory component and the need to understand and navigate the regulatory environment for nuclear power generation.
He added that the regulatory environment, thanks to Texas, plays a crucial role in supporting the development and adoption of new nuclear technologies, such as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).
Education is another instrument he mentioned that is needed to solve the problems related to the nuclear energy and bitcoin mining industries.
Education is required for everyday users as well as for legislators. Maxim noted that there is a general lack of awareness and understanding of Bitcoin mining among the wider population.
Increase in demand for energy
Nazar also spoke about the connection between Bitcoin mining, the evolution of the grid, and energy consumption. He said that while consuming less energy would be ideal, the energy demand is likely to stay flat or increase. Therefore, new energy infrastructure needs to be built and funded.
The speaker emphasized that existing nuclear plants have already incurred the cost of construction, making their operation and maintenance costs the primary factors.
He added that maximizing the capacity and utilization of these facilities is crucial, and this is where a responsive load, such as Bitcoin mining, can align well with nuclear plants.
Collaboration between communities and companies
Maxim also noted the importance of energy and community development going hand in hand. He mentioned the positive response received from communities and the work being done with various blockchain councils and legislators in South Carolina, Ohio, and Texas to promote regulatory understanding and acceptance. The speaker suggests that small modular reactors (SMRs) can not only revitalize current cities but also serve as models for future cities.
He added that there is a need for local areas to provide this technology and for utility companies to incorporate Bitcoin mining into their operations, as it can contribute to the economic viability of projects and support additional community development initiatives.