February 5, 2023

  • A new nuclear-powered data center in Pennsylvania will house bitcoin mining.
  • This is the first nuclear-powered bitcoin mine in the United States.
  • Bitcoin mining is a historically pollution-filled industry, but it’s beginning to focus on cleaner energy to power energy-hungry computers.

Computers consume a lot of energy, as do the blockchains required to constantly mine cryptocurrency. But a new nuclear-powered data center is due to start up in Pennsylvania later this year, and it could switch at least some of that polluting energy use to a cleaner version.

Cumulus Data has completed the first phase of its 475-megawatt zero-carbon data center campus in Susquehanna, Northeast Pennsylvania. The project begins with a 300,000-square-foot, 48-megawatt data center House TeraWulfa bitcoin mining company.

The 1,200-acre campus aims to provide carbon-free power from Talen Energy’s Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant. The Cumulus data centers will connect directly to the facility, without legacy power transmission and distribution companies. The data centers, utilizing direct-connected on-site nuclear power plants, will make it the first nuclear-powered bitcoin mine in the US

In order to mine additional bitcoins, computers have to work continuously to solve complex puzzles. This process is an energy-sapping endeavor that has resulted in huge data centers around the world dedicated only to bitcoin mining. These data centers need energy. Ethereum, the world’s second-largest crypto blockchain, has already started improving its carbon emissions efforts, but Bitcoin accounts for about 70 percent of all crypto power consumption and hasn’t made much headway in cleaning up its process.

Electricity consumption from global crypto mining quadrupled from 2018 to 2022, according to US government data. By mid-2022, crypto assets were consuming more than 240 billion kilowatt hours per year – more than the annual electricity of countries like Argentina or Australia. Crypto power consumption accounted for nearly 1 percent of total annual global power consumption, and crypto operations consume up to 1.7 percent of total U.S. power consumption.

As data centers around the world attempt to transition cryptocurrency mining to renewable energy, the switch to nuclear power could serve as a way to clean out the industry.

Headshot by Tim Newcomb

Tim Newcomb is a journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. He covers stadiums, sneakers, gear, infrastructure and more for a variety of publications including Popular Mechanics. His favorite interviews included sit-downs with Roger Federer in Switzerland, Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, and Tinker Hatfield in Portland.

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