Cryptocurrency is becoming more integrated into our everyday lives. Soon you will be able to pay to see a movie with cryptocurrency as large companies like AMC move to accept it as payment. Meanwhile, the largest crypto exchange in the United States is now a publicly traded company, pro-athletes are being paid in bitcoin, and crypto investing has become a regular conversation at dinner tables.
In the midst of a raging debate over Bitcoin’s environmental impact, two companies claim to offer a solution for minimizing some of the negative consequences: Nuclear power is a source of energy.
Oklo Inc., a power startup, has announced a partnership with Compass Mining, a Bitcoin mining and hosting company, to bring sophisticated fission to the energy-intensive process of minting new coins. The firms say it’s part of an effort to cut carbon emissions from Bitcoin mining and diversify the energy sources used by miners, who compete to verify transactions in exchange for new currencies.
Although nuclear-powered Bitcoin mining may be years away, Oklo sees chances for its relationship with Compass to take place in the United States. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to approve the company’s plans for a range of tiny reactors that may run on radioactive waste. It submitted an application in March 2020, just before the Covid epidemic knocked down the US economy, and the agency accepted it three months later for assessment.
A slew of variables is driving businesses to embrace bitcoin mining right now. Consider a scenario in which low-cost renewables replace some of the production of nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is one of our most dependable sources of energy. However, if more intermittent generating sources (such as wind and solar) are added to the grid, the characteristics of these sources will continue to provide a challenge to current baseload plants. When wind and solar are operating at maximum capacity, a part of the power generated by a baseload plant may be classified as surplus.
Cryptocurrency may be mined and run with carbon-free electricity, owing to nuclear energy, as our promises to solve climate change and our carbon footprint expand. Elon Musk, a vocal opponent of the use of fossil fuels in bitcoin mining, agrees. Musk stated he is “pro-nuclear” and suggested using nuclear to make cryptocurrencies more sustainable while speaking at the B-Word conference.
The expansion of renewable energy sources will alter the way power is generated. Nuclear power is still required because of its consistent and reliable output. However, not all of the production may be required at all times, and ratepayers may only require a portion of the overall nuclear power plant capacity. What should utilities do with the surplus energy? Nuclear power plant operators should consider bitcoin mining as one of their top options when looking for new revenue streams.
While it’s unlikely that nuclear power will take over as the primary fuel source for bitcoin miners everywhere, bringing more forms of decarbonized energy production into the crypto playing field is good news for all of us. Cryptocurrency isn’t going away any time soon, but neither is global warming. The expansion of this first wave of mainstream crypto assets will likely set the tone for a long time to come, and it’s better for all of us if that trajectory is based on a decarbonization mentality.