Nuclear power is often ignored or demonized by the mainstream media and feared by the general public. It is branded as unsafe, impractical, and expensive. But in reality, nuclear power is clean/energy efficient, reliable, and economic (cheap).
These qualities make it an ideal power source for bitcoin miners. While there have been a few instances of bitcoin miners collaborating with nuclear companies over the last two years, nuclear powered bitcoin mining is still in its early days with plenty of untapped opportunities.
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Nuclear power vs. other energy sources
In 2019, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated the levelized cost (lifetime costs divided by energy production) of electricity from new advanced nuclear power plants going online by 2023 to be $0.0775/kWh before government subsidies.
2. Efficiency & Reliability
The chart below displays capacity factor by energy source. This metric measures an energy source’s reliability. Based on this data, nuclear power facilities are generating maximum power more than 93% of the time throughout the year.
On average, a nuclear reactor produces 1 gigawatt (GW) of electricity. Given the capacity factors above, almost two coal or three to four renewable energy plants (1 GW size each) are needed to generate the same amount of electricity onto the grid as one nuclear facility.
By these metrics, cost and efficiency, nuclear power is clearly unmatched.
There have only been three major accidents in over 18,500 cumulative reactor-years of commercial nuclear power operation across 36 countries. Lessons were learned from these accidents, leading to improved power plant safety requirements and design.
Plant safety specifications include:
- Plant construction with a calculated probable frequency of a core meltdown accident occurring as 1 in 100,000 years.
- Structures to prevent radioactivity leaks beyond the plant core.
- Physical barriers installed between the radioactive reactor core and the environment to confine any fuel leak to the plant itself.
- Back-up emergency core cooling systems (ECCS) to remove excess heat, prevent damage to the plant, and contain meltdowns.
Nuclear power usage by bitcoin miners
Based on their most recent annual filings, top publicly traded bitcoin miners (Riot Blockchain, Bitfarms, Marathon Digital Holdings, and Hut8 Mining) have yet to openly consider nuclear powered mining. Their filings contain zero mentions of nuclear energy. However, some private miners are moving into the space.
- Oklo micro-nuclear reactor company-Compass mining partnership (read more)
- Standard Power blockchain-Energy Harbor corporation partnership (read more)
- Miami mayor Francis Suarez plans to offer nuclear power arrangements to bitcoin miners (read more)
- Talen Energy Corporation and TeraWulf mining joint venture (read more)
Opportunity for miners to deploy nuclear powered ASICs
There are currently around 55 commercial nuclear power plants located across the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. These plants are low maintenance, requiring refueling every 2-3 years. Many of them are ready and able to supply larger scale miners with abundant, reliable carbon-free power. Also, the push to build out the nuclear power grid in Florida will likely trigger other states to follow suit, creating ample opportunity for miners of all scale (small, mid, large).
Contrary to what many mainstream voices claim, nuclear power is economical, safe, and reliable. What’s more, nuclear power proves ESG objectives can be achieved without depending on intermittent and unreliable energy sources (i.e. wind and solar energy). By default, nuclear power achieves the ESG mandate: reduce carbon emissions and diversify energy sources. The incentives to use nuclear power are strong and can not be ignored.