Datacenters are going nuclear!

Posted on Friday, Apr 14, 2023 by Ned Bellavance

Featured in this episode of Chaos Lever

A breathlessly positive article from Data Center Dynamics delves delightfully into the promise of small modular nuclear reactors for data center power. They rightly point out that data centers are power hungry beasts that have maxed out the power grid capacity in several regions across the globe, with Ireland being a prime and recent example.

In addition to grid issues, the cloud hyperscalers behind these power-hungry edifices also espouse concern, feigned or real, about the environmental impact their mega-watt monstrosities have on the world. While wind and solar can help ameliorate the impact, they are still reliant on the existing grid and do not provide the consistent power required to run the data centers.

The article goes on to poo-poo any kind of energy storage solutions that might mitigate the issue, and goes on to extoll the virtues of small modular reactors, SMRs, that can produce up to 300MWs of energy with “minimal” environmental impact. The SMRs can be colocated with each data center, removing the burden on the grid.

While I agree broadly with the concept, there’s also a lot of nuance the author completely ignores and there’s also the fact that so far no SMRs have been deployed in the US and as we’ve covered previously, the first one was approved this year and won’t be in operation until 2029.