Big Tech Insiders Pushing Modular NUCLEAR Reactors for Data Centers

Essay by Eric Worrall

As green energy policies pushed by big tech destabilise the public grid, tech industry insiders are pushing onsite miniature nuclear reactors to insulate their businesses from blackouts.

Miniature nuclear reactors could be the answer to sustainable datacenter growth

Did someone say teenage mutant ninja servers?

Tobias Mann 
Fri 30 Dec 2022  // 10:00 UTC

Datacenters use a lot of power and despite our best efforts, a big chunk of that still comes from burning fossil fuels. But what if instead of relying on local utilities for power, these facilities generated their own – maybe using a relatively itty-bitty nuclear reactor?

In a recent report, Omdia analysts Alan Howard and Vladimir Galabov made the case that using small modular reactors (SMRs) to power large datacenters might not be as crazy as it sounds.

As the name suggests, SMRs are essentially just miniaturized reactors. Instead of a massive facility producing gigawatts or more of power, SMRs are designed to produce just a fraction of that. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that depending on the SMR in question, the reactors can produce anywhere from tens to hundreds of megawatts of electrical output.

Read more: https://www.theregister.com/2022/12/30/smr_nuclear_datacenter/

The report from Omdia is available here.

Omdia appear to be well connected tech insiders, they are part of Informa, a major IT knowledge organisation. The largest Informa shareholder is Blackrock (5.92%).

In our glorious Net Zero future, while you are shivering on rationed power, with central government smart meters dictating how much you can heat your home, while old people are struggling with skyrocketing green energy bills are choosing between heating and eating, your streaming movie services will still be reliable, because the computer systems and businesses of the people who funded the politicians who orchestrated your misery will be supplied by onsite miniature nuclear reactors.

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Scissor
December 31, 2022 10:04 am

Force them to use wind and solar, unless they repent.

Smart Rock
Reply to  Scissor
December 31, 2022 11:53 am

Google is planning on a solar/battery installation. They will probably graduate to nuclear power when the renewables turn out to be a bit less reliable than advertised, and they realise that they really should have gone with Plan B in the first place.

https://www.datacenterknowledge.com/google-alphabet/google-s-solar-deal-nevada-data-center-would-be-largest-its-kind

Last edited 1 month ago by Smart Rock
dk_
Reply to  Smart Rock
December 31, 2022 2:08 pm

Google HQ has had Bloom fuel cells for years: too corrupt and biased to advocate a workable solution.

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  Smart Rock
January 1, 2023 9:21 am

But didn’t Google scientists determine, years ago, that renewables wouldn’t work for Google?

Chasmsteed
Reply to  Scissor
January 1, 2023 2:32 am

Moderators – please de-platform this ignorant troll.

Too stupid to realise that no one with the intelligence to use this site would be naïve enough to rise to clickbait.

Chasmsteed
Reply to  Chasmsteed
January 2, 2023 6:01 am

Troll removed – but the unfortunate side effect is that my remarks are now erroneously listed as a reply to Scissor.
My appologies Scissor.

Joao Martins
Reply to  Scissor
January 1, 2023 4:59 am

Force them to use wind and solar, unless they repent.
Too generous.
Better “Force them to use wind and solar forever“.

Tom Halla
December 31, 2022 10:04 am

Snark, but true. The Elect do not intend to be affected by their own virtue signaling.

mleskovarsocalrrcom
December 31, 2022 10:10 am

Could be the start of something good if it proliferates to other businesses and even cities/neighborhoods/homes.

Ed Reid
Reply to  mleskovarsocalrrcom
December 31, 2022 11:18 am

Hospitals/Nursing Homes/Prisons

AndyHce
Reply to  mleskovarsocalrrcom
December 31, 2022 11:48 am

Many things become less expensive at larger scale. Current nuclear plants mostly produce several gigawatts, no? While 4th generation reactor ideas are interesting, especially if they can scale over a wide range of sizes as required to power large or small cities (if they ever become real), I sometimes wonder if SMRs are unlikely to ever be cost effective for wide use.

Possibly, my twisted mind considers, while they receive some publicity in order to receive funding, their real intent is and has always been only to power government facilities and insider services such as this article addresses, and perhaps high end enclaves such as where the Obama mansion sits. They have never been intended for wide spread use to keep the rest of us from freezing.

IAMPCBOB
Reply to  AndyHce
December 31, 2022 1:02 pm

I have read otherwise. There are studies going on, right now, about how to power urban and suburban blocks of houses and businesses, using these small reactors. It likely won’t happen during my lifetime, but there is a huge demand for something like this. The current reactors cost $Billions to build and put on line, while these smaller reactors would run in the $100,000 range. They would be installed and serviced by contractors, NOT the local power company. We can only hope!

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  IAMPCBOB
December 31, 2022 6:28 pm

G’Day Bob,

“… urban and suburban blocks  …”

Don’t know what we’re going to do out here in ‘flyover’ country. There might be as many as ten full-time residents within a thousand yards radius of this rehab’ed homesteaders cabin in the Southern California desert. The power line that serves us doesn’t go any further, we’re at the end of the line.

Solar and batteries? I’ve looked at the San Bernardino County Building Code pages relating to solar. Ouch…..

AndyHce
Reply to  IAMPCBOB
January 1, 2023 12:42 am

If they are being advertisec as $100,000, read that as actually $10,000,000, which will balloon to $100,000,000 before it hits the market.

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  IAMPCBOB
January 1, 2023 9:24 am

$100,000 if, and only if (IFF), the regulatory environment, and the legal environment, are seriously reformed. After all, they ar NUCLEAR reactors, and, therefore, dangerous.

Last edited 1 month ago by Retired_Engineer_Jim
strativarius
December 31, 2022 10:10 am

Big tech…. Neo-feudalism…. Same principles, somewhat different actors.

A 21st century Wat Tyler would be good; we’re going to need one.

Sparko
Reply to  strativarius
December 31, 2022 10:34 am

They killed wat for being impertinent. The crowd just went home

antigtiff
December 31, 2022 10:26 am

And what about those farmers?….the bitcoin farms? I understand they use a lot of electricity for their farming – whatever it is. https://www.copenhagenatomics.com

Last edited 1 month ago by antigtiff
D. Anderson
December 31, 2022 10:41 am

I don’t see anything here but GOOD news.

Barnes Moore
Reply to  D. Anderson
January 1, 2023 6:07 am

I kind of think the same thing. While I am no fan of big tech, we are all dependent on them in some manner. If they can accomplish deploying nuclear to power their data centers, as opposed to using hundreds of square miles for a solar farm with god knows how many batteries, it would be a big win. Just don’t let them get government grants to do it – make them invest their own money and maybe they can commercialize nuclear power. The issue there is how would that new product be utilized to further their political mal-intent?

antigtiff
December 31, 2022 10:43 am

What about the bitcoin miners? I don’t know what it is but it uses large amounts of electricity.

Mr.
Reply to  antigtiff
December 31, 2022 1:26 pm

Too right.

And the sweat just pours off you when have to to wield one of these suckers.

air-kango-7.jpg
Mike McMillan
Reply to  Mr.
December 31, 2022 2:13 pm

That not electric.

I still think they ought to take one (or all) of the climate supercomputers and finish off the bitcoin mining. Think of the saved electricity, and self-funding, too.

Mr.
Reply to  Mike McMillan
December 31, 2022 6:12 pm

I had an electric one.

The sweat still poured off me when I had to do some groundworks with it.

Maybe I should have taken up bitcoin mining with it.

Except I like to physically see the fruits of my labors.

I wonder if bitcoin miners sit back after a long hard day on their keyboard & screen and critique the numbers now presented on the screen, just like I used to do over the necessary hole or trench I just dug, cold beer in hand in and still sweating profusely.

But feeling satisfied.

Don Perry
Reply to  Mike McMillan
December 31, 2022 7:45 pm

Really? How do you compress YOUR air?

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Don Perry
December 31, 2022 8:17 pm

fossil fuel
comment image

Last edited 1 month ago by Mike McMillan
Dave Fair
December 31, 2022 10:51 am

Idiocy. One of the (very important) reasons for grid electricity is that it aggregates many diverse load profiles such that peaks and valleys in consumption are minimized and more efficiently provided for by large energy production sources that don’t ramp up and down excessively.

Rooftop residential and commercial solar instillations are the poster children for the insanity of allowing Leftist liberal arts graduates to enforce politicized energy choices onto real energy systems. Australia and CA are leading the charge in penalizing rooftop solar owners for putting (subsidized) money into systems that must be curtailed during high-insolation and low-load periods. The snowflakes are now screaming to high heaven that they weren’t told that they would have to pay for the adverse impacts their oh-so fashionable subsidized virtue signaling.

Shoki
December 31, 2022 10:56 am

Shiver and eat bugs, peasants.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Shoki
December 31, 2022 11:29 am

And be happy

AndyHce
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
December 31, 2022 11:50 am

i.e. don’t dare complain, you won’t like the consequences.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Shoki
December 31, 2022 12:22 pm

So, they’d really rather you cut to the chase and just take the euthanasia shot. But if there’s anything useful you can do for them maybe you can eat bugs in the cold dark shack provided. For a little while anyway.

Jeffy
December 31, 2022 11:03 am

If they weren’t tracking decades of details for everyone on the planet, from banking info, to favourite peanut butter brand, they could cut their power requirements 10 fold.

Data is so important to big tech, a small modular reactor (meaning submerged on a nuclear powered and armed submarine) is probably what they really want.

doonman
December 31, 2022 11:10 am

We cannot have new nuclear power anywhere in California until Jane Fonda dies. It’s the law.

Thomas Finegan
December 31, 2022 11:20 am

I’ve lived in the mountains of Colorado for eight years, Xcel Energy is my electricity and natural gas utility. Two months ago I received my first $200+ energy bill. Last month was over $300. Might have to move to a shack on the roof of a data center, take advantage of free waste heat.

Drake
Reply to  Thomas Finegan
December 31, 2022 2:47 pm

Keep electing Democrat governor and legislature, what do you expect.

DonM
Reply to  Thomas Finegan
December 31, 2022 3:50 pm

If I get thru December I will have kept mine under $50/mo all year.

(don’t you have any trees in the mountains of Colorado that you can burn?)

j.simasko
December 31, 2022 11:36 am

It’s ok by me as long as I can get one in my basement. 🤔

Mike McMillan
Reply to  j.simasko
December 31, 2022 2:17 pm

You could use your backyard pool for cooling the spent fuel. And brag to your neighbors that you have a heated pool, though they might wonder why you keep it lit all night.

Rich Davis
December 31, 2022 12:32 pm

Looks like an IBM PC AT with a 286 processor and a 1.2M floppy, running Word Perfect. How could anyone ever need more than 640k of RAM?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 31, 2022 1:13 pm

Only if it’s a high density disc, otherwise it’s 360k.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 31, 2022 2:19 pm

Might have a 30 MB Winchester installed, too.

MarkW
Reply to  Rich Davis
December 31, 2022 3:11 pm

PC AT pre-dated the 1.2M floppies by at least a decade.
1.2M might have been the clock speed though.

Last edited 1 month ago by MarkW
Rich Davis
Reply to  MarkW
January 1, 2023 9:56 am

Not correct, Mark. I had one in 1986.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Personal_Computer/AT

rovingbroker
December 31, 2022 12:32 pm

Small reactors … like something that would power a submarine?

Current U.S. naval reactors are all pressurized water reactors, which are identical to PWR commercial reactors producing electricity, except that:

They have a high power density in a small volume and run either on low-enriched uranium (as do some French and Chinese submarines) or on highly (>20% U-235, current U.S. submarines use fuel enriched to at least 93%)

They have long core lives, so that refueling is needed only after 10 or more years, and new cores are designed to last 25 years in carriers and 10–33 years in submarines,

The design enables a compact pressure vessel while maintaining safety.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_naval_reactors
(references at the link)

This is not rocket science.

garboard
Reply to  rovingbroker
December 31, 2022 2:18 pm

who makes them ? and can anybody buy one ?

Drake
Reply to  garboard
December 31, 2022 3:04 pm

The reactor vessels are made in Ontario CANADA since the US no longer has the capacity to forge such. What a country.

BUT with GUVMNT approval, factory built SMRs could, within 10 years or less, begin replacing the soon to expire wind and solar sudogenerating capacity.

First couple of years, build the steel plants necessary to forge the vessels AND do siting determination, acquire land, etc.

Next couple of years, begin assembly line production of reactors and all associated valves, piping, heat exchangers, etc. etc. AND begin site development for placing reactors and generating equipment.

Next couple of years, transport the nuclear parts of the plant to the site and PLUG THEM IN.

Finally, electrical generation.

Of course that would take all the environmental variances from regulations that wind and solar get NOW.

The best siting locations would be existing of recently demolished coal plant sites, with transmission lines in place and train tracks available for reactor core deliveries.

Finally, use highly enriched fuel, and reprocess that as you go. The entire reactor vessel can be removed and loaded on a train to be returned to the reprocessing plant under the supervision of the US military. A new or refurbished one would be plugged in and production would be brought back to optimum in short order. My understanding is that it takes a while, a number of years, for the core to cool enough to remove, so since the highly enriched plants would only need reprocessing about every 10 years, 6 reactors would continuously produce the output of 5.

If they could run for 20 years, 11 for 10.

anoledog
Reply to  rovingbroker
December 31, 2022 9:23 pm

We should Complete development of the molten salt reactor (MSR) which was invented by Alvin Weinberg’s Team at Oak Ridge in the 50’-60’s. The Team also invented the Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) in use today. Although Weinberg recommended the MSR, the U.S. went with the PWR, largely because Admiral Rickover wanted them for his nuclear Navy, & California commercial interests with PWR technology persuaded Nixon to favor them. MSRs can’t meltdown or explode, they produce very little nuclear waste utilizing 98% of the nuclear fuel as opposed to PWR, which uses only about 2% of the nuclear fuel, leaving 98% that must be safely stored for 10,000 years. MSR can be designed to “burn” most any fissile fuel, including waste fuel from PWRs and they can be very small. We also need to complete development of the Supercritical CO2 Braydon Cycle (sCO2) turbine, so that both the nuclear plant and turbine can be made small. Instead of the U.S. investing in MSR and sCO2 turbines we spent $75 billion subsidizing a 7th century invention.

nutmeg
Reply to  anoledog
January 2, 2023 4:48 pm

The real problem is that the MSR didn’t work for sustained operations. When scientists at the Idaho National Labaratory conducted a review in 2018, materials that could handle the corrosive salts at high heat and radiation levels had not been developed.

Hasbeen
Reply to  rovingbroker
December 31, 2022 11:31 pm

They do have a ready & reliable supply of cooling in naval applications

Gary Pearse
December 31, 2022 12:41 pm

“Big Tech Insiders Pushing Modular NUCLEAR Reactors for Data Centers”

This is another example of the big ‘tells’ that abound in stuff from climateers/totalitarians. In a poker
game or any other situation where some one is trying to sell you a bill of goods (bluff) its essential to be attuned to tells. Fortunately these birds are simpler minded than poker players as a group.

Eric picked up on the ‘tell’ re high
-teck not wanting to have issues with their business model but, to me it reads more broadly as a stark admission that renewables dont work and they can’t be made to work!

IAMPCBOB
Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 31, 2022 1:12 pm

Slowly, but surely, SOME people are beginning to wake up to that fact! Our governments, however, are still living in lala land and believe that THEY, alone, can ‘make it work’! It isn’t working any place ELSE, but Leftist’s and liberals all over the globe are SURE that they know what’s best, for everyone ELSE! Oh, and be sure to send them money! LOT’S and LOT’S of money, so they can make it ‘work’! (For them!)

DMacKenzie
December 31, 2022 1:56 pm

We had enough power when private enterprise was the supplier with utility contracts that limited excess profits…..but somehow we have let government be involved with the permitting process supposedly for the good of humanity….and now we are short of electricity. Sure seems like something is off track….

garboard
December 31, 2022 2:11 pm

who makes the nuclear reactors for submarines and aircraft carriers ?

Yooper
Reply to  garboard
December 31, 2022 2:25 pm

Private industry.

Drake
Reply to  garboard
December 31, 2022 3:14 pm

Newport News Shipbuilding does all US nuclear nuclear aircraft carriers.
They also build nuclear subs.
Electric boat also builds US subs.

ALL the reactor vessels for US nuclear ships come from Ontario Canada. The US does not have the capacity to produce them.

HotScot
Reply to  garboard
December 31, 2022 4:28 pm

Rolls Royce?

Christopher Chantrill
December 31, 2022 3:36 pm

I want one.

HotScot
December 31, 2022 4:31 pm

Slightly daft article.

If consumers are shivering in the dark they won’t be paying for Netflix or even internet access instead of heating. No need for data centres then, other than for the 1%, and who would make their entertaining TikTok videos?

We really have to shake off this collective victim culture. Russia and China are not coming to get us. They have had far more to fear from the predatory west than we have ever had to fear from them.

Klaus Schwab is a comical carnival barker with some wealthy mates who are good at marketing. Putin, Xi and Modi won’t be taking orders from that nonentity any time soon.

We are approaching peak climate hysteria, now the money to support it is being demanded watch the virtue signalling government officials promoting it suddenly go quiet.

As my first mother in law used to say, ‘when the bills hit the post box, love flies out the window’.

MarkW
Reply to  HotScot
December 31, 2022 8:24 pm

Predatory west? Really?

Nobody said that Russia and China wanted to take over the west. Currently they are both pre-occupied with trying to dominate and or invade their neighbors.

Last edited 1 month ago by MarkW
HotScot
Reply to  MarkW
January 1, 2023 6:09 am

If you imagine that hundreds of NATO bases across the planet isn’t predatory I really can’t understand what you consider predatory means.

And once again, Putin intervened in what was emerging into an ethnic cleansing if not full blown genocidal event in Ukraine. Unlike the west which stood and watched innumerable genocidal events happening whilst it had the power (and the military bases) to do something about them, it stood and watched. Bosnia and Rwanda being only two of the more recent events.

The USSR/Russia has already done more in the pursuance of peace by abandoning communism than the west ever has. It willingly surrendered all the nations it was awarded at the end of WW2 by the allies.

Now we learn from Angela Merkle that the Minsk agreement was nothing but a ruse to buy time for Ukraine to fully arm itself, which it did and conducted the persecution of Ukrainian Russians not only in Ukraine itself but in the historic ethnic Russian eastern Ukraine.

It wasn’t Russia’s fault the EU accepted 40% of their natural gas from Russia, and laughed in the face of Trump when he told them it was a really bad idea.

Nor did Russia start this conflict, which after Merkle’s comments is blatantly obvious, but it sure looks like Russia will finish it.

But the west isn’t predatory according to your rhetoric. You are stuck in the 1960’s with a Red’s under the Bed mentality.

nutmeg
Reply to  HotScot
January 2, 2023 4:17 pm

In America, the bulk of the poor are crowded in city apartment buildings and small townhouses. The parent/grandparent pays for the heat while all the kids have smartphones and mulyiple streaming services.

pflashgordon
January 1, 2023 8:17 am

Banks, data centers and other “must run” operations already spend huge sums for backup power. Going nuclear is logical and not a very original thought. When SMRs become marketable, these types of facilities will likely be among the first.

Michael S. Kelly
January 1, 2023 8:15 pm

In our glorious Net Zero future, while you are shivering on rationed power…choosing between heating and eating, your streaming movie services will still be reliable, because the computer systems and businesses of the people who funded the politicians who orchestrated your misery will be supplied by onsite miniature nuclear reactors.”

People who are choosing between heating and eating on their rationed power won’t be watching any streaming videos, or doing anything else requiring electric power beyond that required for survival. No streaming, no browsing, no on-line ordering, no email, no texting…nothing will happen from the customer end. So even if Big “Tech” data centers are humming along on nuclear power, having zero revenue due to zero customers will render the net worth of every tech oligarch identically zero – instantly, and irrevocably. They offer no value to the world, and make their billions only as middlemen. But there has to be someone on either side of a middleman…

ATheoK
January 1, 2023 10:13 pm

Miniature nuclear reactors could be the answer to sustainable datacenter growth”

Sounds like a data center that wants to invest in digital currency mining.

nutmeg
Reply to  ATheoK
January 2, 2023 4:53 pm

Digital currency mining is one of the few data center uses that doesn’t require constant reliable power. Computations can be paused when the grid goes down, so just a few seconds of backup battery is sufficient.

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