Energy consumed by Bitcoin mining operations is approaching 0.5% of global energy consumption figures, which has raised concerns that cryptocurrency mining activities are damaging the environment and raising electricity rates for everyone else. Digiconomist estimates that Bitcoin mining requires about 200 GigaWatts of electricity, although some experts think this is an overestimate. It would be optimal if Bitcoin mining used excess power generated by nuclear power plants, which often goes to waste, and this could be the future since nuclear power is cheap and emits low amounts of greenhouse gases.
Nuclear energy is produced by a controlled nuclear chain reaction, where a heavy isotope such as Uranium-235 is split, releasing neutrons which cause another Uranium-235 atom to split, and so on and so forth. The energy produced by the nuclear chain reaction can be utilized for power generation as long as the reaction is stable. On the other hand, if the nuclear chain reaction causes exponentially more atoms to split, it becomes a nuclear bomb.
Nuclear power plants produce so much energy that there are times throughout the day and year that the power grid has no more room to store the electricity, and nuclear power plant operators are forced to reduce the energy output of the nuclear reactor. Control rods are inserted into the core of the reactor, and these consist of metals like boron and silver which absorb neutrons and slow down or stop the nuclear chain reaction.
It does not save any money to slow down a nuclear reactor with control rods, it costs about the same amount of money to operate a nuclear power plant whether it is at low capacity or max capacity. Therefore, it is economically sensible for nuclear power plants to operate near full capacity 24/7. Operating near full capacity also increases the longevity of a nuclear reactor.
This is where Bitcoin mining comes in. If a large enough Bitcoin farm is set up on the grid of a nuclear power plant, then the nuclear power plant can run at full capacity 24/7. This would make the plant more profitable, leading to lower electricity rates for the entire grid, and the Bitcoin mining network would get the energy it needs.
The low electricity rates near a full capacity nuclear power plant would additionally make Bitcoin mining more profitable. A similar concept is observed with the concentration of Bitcoin mining farms around cheap geothermal energy sources in Iceland, and around hydroelectric dams in China, where large amounts of excess electricity are produced.
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