Bitcoin miners go nuclear in the hunt for cheap electricity

Nuclear-fueled Bitcoin mining facilities are appearing across the US, as failing power plants find unlikely business partners in crypto.

Bitcoin mining firms are buddying up to nuclear power plants with surplus energy, reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The unlikely match appears to work for both sides. Nuclear power plants struggling to keep up with cheaper competitors are beginning to supply Bitcoin mining operations in need of cheap electricity. 

Not to mention, climate cautious crypto criticisms mean miners are minded to keep energy sources as clean as possible. Nuclear power stations don’t produce carbon emissions.

And in the US, nuclear power stations are producing more electricity than they can sell. Competition in wholesale energy markets is often lost to natural gas and wind power.

So, Talen Energy has teamed up with Bitcoin mining startup TeraWulf in a new nuclear venture, the WSJ noted.

The two companies recently broke ground on a 189-megawatt nuclear-powered Bitcoin mining facility in Pennsylvania.

A nuclear fission plant adjacent to the site will power TeraWulf’s operation, which is roughly the size of four football fields.

In fact, new nuclear projects are launching with Bitcoin mining in mind. Oklo has signed a two-decades-long agreement with Compass Mining to supply energy from a soon-to-be-built, small-scale nuclear plant.

Bitcoin now a long way from PCs

In just over a decade, Bitcoin mining has evolved into an industrial operation. Powerful computers crunch numbers to validate transactions on the blockchain and receive a BTC reward.

In 2009, a simple home PC could mine a block and produce a 50 BTC reward (worth over $2 million in today’s money).

However, as the value of a Bitcoin had increased so too has the competition for the approximately 2 million BTC yet to be minted.

Bitcoin mining operations are now only really profitable in certain situations — usually in large facilities with access to cheap energy.

The largest US Bitcoin mine is in Texas.

[Read more: Bitcoin mine causes glacial lake to ‘boil’ — that claim is lukewarm at best]

In any case, power plant operators are increasingly looking to crypto to break even.

A coal power station in St. Louis is using any energy it can’t sell for its own crypto mining operation.

Earlier this month, Ars Technica reported the 55-year old plant had generated about $800,000 in cryptocurrency since April.

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