North American mining and hosting provider, Compass is eyeing nuclear energy to power its mining operations. It has signed a 20-year deal with Oklo, a startup that makes Nuclear Microreactors. Oklo will provide Compass with 150 megawatts of energy.
The first Oklo mini reactors will be installed in 2023 or 2024 as revealed by Whit Gibbs, CEO of Compass.
“Cryptocurrency mining offers promising pathways to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies, and Oklo is positioned to respond to commercial demands by offering end-users the convenience of buying clean, reliable and cost-effective power that they can depend on,” Jacob DeWitte, co-founder, and CEO of Oklo, said.
“Every bitcoin miner understands the need for cheap, reliable power,”Whit Gibbs, CEO – Compass
The partnership will “redefine the energy landscape for cryptocurrency mining”.
Oklo plans to build reactors producing 1 to 10 megawatts of electrical energy.
Compass currently holds power-purchase agreements with third-party facilities that can arbitrarily decide the power prices.
“While the facility’s power cost might be $0.030-0.035/kWh (kilowatt hours), they sell to Compass customers for $0.055-0.065/kWh,” Gibbs explained.
Gibbs said he expects power costs to be between $0.02-0.04/kWh with Oklo.
“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,” DeWitte said.
He believes that fission can trump the complexity and high costs of building conventional large reactors.
M. V. Ramana, a physicist at the University of British Columbia, disagrees with him. He believes that the traditional nuclear plants usually cost billions, and while smaller reactors may cost less to build, they tend to be proportionally more expensive.
Ramana says the costs of other renewable energy sources like solar and wind tend to decline over time which cannot be compared to nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy company NuScale Power, which builds reactors producing about 60 megawatts of power, saw its costs increase significantly after going through the regulatory process with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Ramana said.
DeWitte mentioned that Oklo has been accepted to NRC’s review process, which “represents a high bar and therefore is a major step of itself.”
Gibbs said that the $2 million award from the Department of Energy is a validation that Oklo will be able to build its microreactors on time.
But Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, believes it’s unlikely that Oklo will get the approval to build by 2023 because its safety standards are unorthodox.
“The mindset of Oklo and some of these other new reactor companies is they just want the NRC to accept the reactor is going to be safer, essentially let them do whatever they want,” Lyman said.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration holds that nuclear reactors do not produce air pollution or carbon dioxide while operating. However, the biggest concern is the radioactive waste they produce.
According to a Nasdaq report, Compass is also in talks with the city of Miami about getting power from the Turkey Point Nuclear Plant.
It is not the only company to have inked such deals.
On July 12, nuclear power company Energy Harbor Corp. signed a five-year deal with Standard Power to power bitcoin mining in Ohio.
Talen Energy also plans to build a 300 GW data center campus attached to a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania to mine Bitcoin.
Nuclear energy is emerging as an alternative to the current energy sources.