Bitcoin miners seek to go nuclear to solve environmental problems

Amid a heated debate over Bitcoin’s environmental record, two companies say they have an answer to mitigate some of the negative effects: nuclear power.

Energy startup Oklo Inc. said it is teaming up with Bitcoin mining and hosting company Compass Mining to bring advanced fission into the energy-intensive process of minting new coins. It’s an effort, the companies say, to reduce fossil fuel emissions from Bitcoin mining and to diversify the energy sources used by miners, who compete to verify transactions in exchange for news. rooms.

“Bitcoin is a huge market opportunity for clean energy production, especially pending next-generation systems,” said Jacob DeWitte, CEO of Oklo, who founded the company with Caroline Cochran in 2013. .

Oklo, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., Said its advanced fission reactors will be able to begin delivering clean power in the early 2020s, according to a statement on Wednesday, July 14. It plans to provide Compass with at least 150 megawatts of clean energy in the first phase of the 20-year partnership. The terms were not disclosed.

Oklo sees opportunities for its partnership with Compass to unfold in the United States, although Bitcoin’s nuclear mining could take years. The company is still in the process of seeking approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its variety of small reactors that could operate with radioactive waste. He submitted an application in March 2020, just before the COVID pandemic ended the U.S. economy, and the regulator accepted it for review about three months later. DeWitte said NRC is mandated to conduct reviews within three years.

The announcement comes amid a protracted debate about the impact Bitcoin mining can have on the environment. Crypto miners use large amounts of computing power and energy to verify transactions on the blockchain, or the decentralized ledger that underlies the digital token. Their energy use is comparable to that of many developed countries and rivals the emissions of major fossil fuel users and producers such as airlines and oil service companies, according to an analysis by Bank of America Corp., although others dispute this, arguing that it is no worse than the carbon footprint of cars, power plants and factories.

Oklo is part of a wave of companies developing smaller reactors that they say are faster and cheaper to build than conventional nuclear power plants. Such reactors could be small and generate a lot of energy without harmful emissions.

And he’s not the only one working on it. Energy Harbor Corp., an electricity producer, said earlier this week that it has entered into a five-year partnership with Standard Power to deliver carbon-free electricity from its nuclear fleet to Standard’s Bitcoin mining center. Power in Coshocton. It should start at the end of the year, according to a statement.

Assuming it receives approval, Oklo will review sites in Idaho, near Idaho Falls, as well as Alaska and other sites in the United States, according to DeWitte. Internationally, the company sees opportunities in Central, Southern and Eastern Europe as well as America, among others.

Oklo offers what DeWitte calls fission as a service, which means it sells electricity and heat in a way that will make it easier for customers to buy. The new partnership with Compass is a “pairing of opportunities,” he said, and helps accelerate the deployment of his product by Oklo. “We now have the opportunity to support the deployment of many reactors relatively quickly. “

Compass will be able to place its mining computers on or near the Oklo sites. The two companies have not disclosed financial details of the partnership, but a deal could involve Oklo receiving a cut of the mined Bitcoin, DeWitte said.

What the partnership does “is to open the door to interesting partnerships and funding avenues, but also to ways of ultimately accelerating the building of productive capacities,” he said. “From a clean energy technology and development perspective, I actually think Bitcoin is going to be a really powerful ally and partner for that.”

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