As bitcoin miners seek solutions to go green, aging nuclear plants offer what they’re looking for: cheap, carbon-free power. But how about radioactive waste?

Cryptocurrency miners, who were under fire for generating large carbon emissions, seem to have found a solution: to partner with aging nuclear energy plants and spare some power capacity

“We are building demand adjacent to the existing nuclear plant,” Talen Energy President Alex Hernandez, head of the subsidiary jointly developing the mining project near the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, told Wall Street Journal. 

“Both industry’s challenges are the other industry’s positives,” Sean Lawrie, partner at consulting firm ScottMadden Inc, told the paper. The deals between the plants and miners may have the potential of solving the problems that both industries face. 

Amid competition, struggling local nuclear plants are happy with the partnership and new nuclear projects too are looking forward to striking deals with cryptocurrency miners. 

One startup, Oklo Inc, for example, has already signed a 20-year supply deal with hardware and hosting firm Compass Mining and plans to build a small-scale fission power plant, WSJ reported. Another company, Talen Energy Corp that partnered with bitcoin mining company TeraWulf Inc, is getting ready to open a mining facility that is the size of four football fields. 

Studies found that cryptocurrency mining can be far more energy-intensive than actual mining despite being virtual. The miners use high-powered computers that generate between 22 and 22.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year around the world, according to a 2019 study in the scientific journal Joule. 

Bitcoin mining eats up the same amount of energy that the Netherlands spent in the same year at current rates, according to data from the University of Cambridge and the International Energy Agency. The energy required to unlock a single bitcoin equals the power of 170 average US homes a month. 

Bitcoin’s enormous energy requirements have alarmed environmentalists and caused some hesitancy among some investors amid mounting pressure.

In July, the second-richest person in the world, Tesla boss, Elon Musk announced that he’ll not accept Bitcoin to buy his electric vehicles, noting that coal, which has “the worst emission of any fuel” was used to generate electricity. 

But meanwhile, cryptocurrency, a form of payment, is becoming increasingly popular, even though China, where many mining operations were carried out, recently declared all transactions of crypto-currencies illegal. It only means the opportunity for domestic production in other countries in the US, the world’s second-largest miner, and other countries are bigger now.

Can cryptocurrency go green?

Despite being emission-free, nuclear power, on the other hand, is not free from environmental harm.

The nuclear power plants emit less carbon emissions than fossil fuels but they leave behind radioactive waste while generating power.  

In 2011, a nuclear power plant disaster in Japan’s Fushikima, for example, became the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, leading to the evacuation of 100,000 people. At least 2313 disaster-related deaths were recorded among the evacuees. 

Partnering with nuclear plants is not the first attempt of the cryptocurrency industry to minimise environmental harm. Bitcoin miners were also experiencing using green power in West Texas by buying the excess energy produced with wind and solar projects, Forbes reported

In Upstate New York, natural gas plants also have partnered with mining companies. Compared to coal, which powers some nuclear plants, it’s considered cleaner, however, it produces methane, another greenhouse gas the scientists are worried about. 

Source: TRT World