Bitcoin Miners Could Go Nuclear in Kazakhstan as Gov’t Plans New Power Plant
The government of Kazakhstan is debating a plan to build a nuclear power plant that could help the country to strengthen its Bitcoin (BTC) and crypto mining sector in the longer term.
According to the media outlet Vedomosti, the Minister of Energy, Magzum Mirzagaliyev, told reporters that two locations were being considered as “potential sites” for a new nuclear power plant, namely a village named Ulken in the Alma-Ata region and Kurchatov, a city in Eastern Kazakhstan.
“We have created a [projection] of the nation’s production and consumption of electricity until 2035. We clearly see the need to build a nuclear power plant in order to provide electricity to our population and our economy.”
Although the minister did not make direct mention of BTC and crypto mining, his colleagues have previously done so when speaking about expanding the grid in the wake of power disruptions linked to mining. The government sees this sector as a growth engine, but as the national grid is still 70% dependent on coal-powered stations, it has conceded that nuclear expansion may be the only way forward.
This winter has seen a massive strain placed on the grid, leading to power outages for many miners – and millions of USD worth of losses both for industrial, licensed token miners and the national economy. Some miners said their centers have been without power for up to a month.
Multiple reports have estimated that some 88,000 mining rigs have been brought over the border from China since September’s crackdown, ramping up electricity usage in many areas.
The energy minister warned that the proposed nuclear power plant “will be able to cover the country's future electricity needs,” but added that construction will take builders up to 10 years to complete.
The relationship between mining and nuclear energy providers is starting to deepen, not just in Central Asia, but also in the United States and Europe. A number of miners in the USA have already begun receiving power from nuclear reactors, while in Ukraine, the national nuclear energy provider has been working in conjunction with miners at Europe’s biggest nuclear plants in a bid to offset financial losses.
In many cases, data centers are being built adjacent to nuclear power plants. Some of these will reportedly be as large as four football fields. Other American mining projects are also in the pipelines, although federal approval is still needed for many of these, meaning miners may need to wait until 2023-2025 for a decision.
The picture is very different in Bitcoin mining’s former center of gravity: Mainland China. An influential economic journal this week published a review claiming that in order to “completely eradicate” the chances of “survival of cryptocurrencies in China,” a “zero-tolerance” approach was needed to mining.
The journal noted that academic projections had placed BTC and crypto mining to grow to a power consumption rate of 296.59 TWh in 2024 had Beijing not intervened in September.
The journal concluded:
“Whether we are talking about the mining or the trading of cryptocurrencies, there is no place [for them] in China.”
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