First nuclear-powered Bitcoin mine to start operations in US this year

This will reduce carbon emissions from mining operations but is that the only way?
Ameya Paleja
Cryptocurrency mining rigs in a data center stock photo.
Cryptocurrency mining rigs in a data center stock photo.

luza studios/iStock 

TeraWulf, a Minnesota-headquartered company, will become the first entity in the U.S. to power its Bitcoin mining operations with nuclear energy, CNET reported. The operations will be handled at the recently completed Cumulus Susquehanna data center, which is entirely powered by the 2.5 GW Susquehanna nuclear power station in northeast Pennsylvania.

Mining is crucial for Bitcoin as it is the only method to generate new coins of the cryptocurrency. To generate a new Bitcoin token, users solve complex mathematical puzzles, and the first to provide the correct answer is awarded the newly generated crypto coin. Called the Proof of Work system, the process is commonly referred to as mining, and the users involved in solving the puzzle are called miners.

Over the years, the puzzles have become more difficult to crack, and miners have dedicated greater computational resources in their bid to earn the coveted new coin. This, in turn, has increased the power consumption of the Bitcoin industry, making it less sustainable than beef farming, and it is estimated to have emitted 86.3 million tons of carbon in 2022 alone.

No carbon nuclear power

As renewable sources of energy are getting cheaper, mining operations are increasingly being built closer to solar, hydro, and wind energy farms. However, a major portion of the mining operations continues to be powered by carbon-emitting sources of energy.

The Cumulus Data Center built in the 1,200-acre campus in Pennsylvania is connected to the 2.5 GW Susquehanna nuclear power station and will soon host the mining operations of TeraWulf, making it the first nuclear-powered Bitcoin mine in the U.S.

This will bring down carbon emissions from TeraWulf's operations, and other mining companies are also expected to follow suit in the near future. Miami, which is also home to nuclear power, is also looking to attract crypto miners with its pro-crypto policies, the CNET report added.

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Proof of Work

Although this could be a welcome step in the short term, the problem that Bitcoin mining and record keeping is an energy-intensive process will continue to remain even after the switch.

Even if mining were to be completely powered by free and non-polluting solar power, there is definite scope for the world's most popular cryptocurrency to become less energy intensive.

Last year, the second most popular blockchain platform, Ethereum, led the way by shifting from a proof of work to a proof of stake system. In such a setup, instead of racing to solve increasingly tougher puzzles, users deposit a stake of their ether holdings into the network for a chance to be chosen to verify transactions.

When a transaction is completed and added to the blockchain, the verifiers are rewarded for their work with new tokens. Verifying false or wrong transactions could mean that users could lose their deposits, ensuring that the network stays true to actual transactions taking place.

The new system is expected to help Ethereum as a platform reduce up to 99 percent of its carbon emissions, something that Bitcoin could also do. For now, there are no proposals that Bitcoin could be making this shift anytime soon.