Bitcoin mining using nuclear energy appears to be gaining steam
As Compass takes advantage of cheaper energy, Oklo gains a partner that can take up extra energy supply at various reactors. With time Oklo could build reactors that are solely dedicated to bitcoin mining using nuclear power.
Oklo’s business model aims to buck the traditional economies of scale where conventional nuclear reactors have gained an advantage by building larger reactors over time versus smaller ones. The result is a more cost effective, and clean method of Bitcoin mining using nuclear energy.
DeWitte believes nuclear fission has the potential to be the cheapest source of alternative energy, despite the complexity and high costs of building conventional reactors.
“When you think about it from cost and sustainability purposes, looking at all the tools at our disposal to make energy, fission requires the least materials over its lifecycle,”Oklo CEO Jacob DeWitte
The first Oklo reactors will be deployed in 2023 or 2024 and the cost savings will be “considerably lower” than any energy sources Compass plugs into now, said Compass CEO Whit Gibbs. Oklo plans to build mini-nuclear reactors which produce between one and 10 megawatts of electrical energy compared to the hundreds of megawatts produced at conventional reactors.
Oklo has applied for a 1.5-megawatt plant at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and is working on additional applications.
Traditional nuclear plants typically cost around $15 billion, and while smaller reactors cost less to build they tend to be proportionally more expensive, said M. V. Ramana, a physicist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. A $15 billion reactor might produce 1,000 megawatts but building a reactor that produces 1 megawatt won’t be a thousandth of the cost of $15 billion.
“The cost of generating nuclear electricity today is roughly about four times the cost of generating solar or wind power,” Ramana stated.
Costs increase over time for large and small plants, Ramana said. Nuclear energy company NuScale Power, which builds reactors that produce about 60 megawatts of power, saw its costs increase significantly after going through the regulatory process with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Ramana said.
It’s unlikely that Oklo would be approved to build by 2023 because it’s safety standards are unorthodox, said Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C.
“The mindset of Oklo and some of these other new reactor companies is they just want the NRC [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission] to accept the reactor is going to be safer, essentially let them do whatever they want,” Lyman said.
DeWitte noted that Oklo has been accepted into the NRC’s review process, which “represents a high bar and therefore is a major step of itself.” Compass’ Gibbs said he sees a recent $2 million award from the Department of Energy as validation that Oklo will build its micro reactors on time.
“Bitcoin is a huge market opportunity for clean energy generation, especially looking forward for new generation systems,” said Oklo Chief Executive Officer Jacob DeWitte, who founded the company with Caroline Cochran in 2013.
Oklo, based in Sunnyvale, California plans to provide Compass with at least 150 megawatts of clean power in the first phase of the 20-year partnership.
However, whilst the conversation around Bitcoin mining using nuclear sources is gaining traction, Mining firms and their vast racks of power hungry specialized computers have drawn the ire of environmental groups and campaigners, with even Billionaire powerhouse Elon Musk tweeting about the number one ranked crypto’s environmental impact through mining.