Welcome to part two of this series on bitcoin and nuclear power. Let’s recap what we went through in part one before we dive into the topics we’ll cover in part two.
key takeaways from “why bitcoin is the future of our energy grid”
- Bitcoin has great utility and is important to humans. Not everyone can use or appreciate its usefulness today, which is fine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful to others. currently about $400 billion of the world’s wealth is stored in it, that’s a lot of monetary energy to ignore.
- bitcoin uses only about 0.1% of global energy. current energy use is 100 to 200 terawatt hours (twh) per year and based on the projections shared in part one, bitcoin energy use will always be a rounding error of global energy consumption. it will most likely be less than 1% for a long time.
- Bitcoin, in fact, may use very little energy for the value it can store in the future. Considering that bitcoin is likely to grow over the next decade and could store $20 trillion of the world’s wealth, maybe even $50 trillion or $100 trillion, that’s a lot of monetary power to keep it safe and secure. we must invest and use more energy to protect the network than we currently do.
- Bitcoin miners are highly mobile, looking for the cheapest and lowest cost energy to mine, and do not compete with other industries or their personal use for energy.
- energy use is a good thing. you want to live in a place where there is a good amount of energy available to use and enjoy, instead of very little. we need to use and harness more energy to become a kardashev type i civilization that will take decades.
Nuclear plants have always fascinated people over the years, but very few average people to date really understand the economics behind building a large-scale nuclear power plant. today we deconstruct this same topic and in a fun and innovative way.
As the industry saying goes, “there are only two things that matter in building a nuclear power plant: the cost of capital and the costs of capital”
a story that begins in 2009
all good stories should start from the beginning. why should we do it any other way? so here we go.
The year is 2009. There are two nuclear reactor technology companies in the market competing to bring their technology online, deploy reactors, and sell electricity. We will call these companies alpha labs and beta labs.
Both companies are currently in their research and development phases and in the conceptual design for the deployment of the reactor. the next six years or so would be exhausting. Both companies will go through extensive research and development, engineering decision-making processes, vendor and vendor selections, component testing, hardware testing, conceptual design reviews and iterations, and a comprehensive licensing review by the regulatory commission. nuclear reactor (nrc) before obtaining a building permit for the construction of a nuclear reactor site. this period will be full of challenges, both technological and otherwise. Just like working on any deep technology, there are always things that need detailed design and engineering to work on and iterate on before you’re ready to make that technology a reality. the nuclear sector is no different.
However, something else happened around 2009: the invention or discovery of bitcoin. in the early years no one noticed, at least not in the nuclear industry as they were pretty busy with their tech work and bitcoin was only heard about or really found in the weeds of the internet. and who was really busy looking for that in those days? but this changed. in 2012, an engineer working at alpha labs discovered bitcoin by chance, reading a reddit blog post. this engineer was intrigued and began to investigate further. Having an engineering background with deep experience in energy markets, he began to think of bitcoin as a commodity with an associated cost of production like any other commodity. he discovered proof-of-work mining. This led him down a rabbit hole that changed the very nature of Alpha Labs’ history, and more importantly, the future of nuclear power, energy markets, the energy grid, and humanity forever. this is the story of that engineer.
The engineer started mining bitcoins at home at first. he thought there was no better way to learn about mining than to do it himself and be in the trenches. the year was now 2013 and he had been mining for a good six months and had developed deep thinking about mining. he soon realized the repercussions of this innovation, how mining could be used to monetize energy that could never otherwise be monetized. bitcoin mining offers a first-resort buyer for any energy that is low-cost: wasted, stranded, restricted, surplus, or underutilized. the engineer noticed this. he was so far ahead of his time, the world would not realize the depth of this innovation until around 2030.
the engineer, realizing this in 2013, began pitching the idea of a co-located bitcoin mining site on the nuclear island that alpha labs was designing for his first site. received strong pushback at first as no one was aware of bitcoin, let alone bitcoin mining. but he was persistent and did not give up.
bitcoin had also started to appear in the main news due to a price increase, then a subsequent drop due to mt. gox debacle, and more people were at least realizing it. he started giving talks and presentations to the executive team and took the orange pill off some of them. After six months of painstaking design and engineering work in early 2014, Alpha Labs announced its plan to locate a Bitcoin mining facility on the site of its nuclear island, which was supposed to break ground in 2016.
The engineer was moved to a newly created bitcoin mining division within the company and he began leading that group. Over the next year, the team worked on construction details and integrated the mine center’s co-location design into its nuclear island design. alpha labs opted for a highly mobile building design for their mining facility so that in the event that they had to move or relocate the mining facility to another location, it would be relatively easy to do, plus this limited their risk of own an asset that cannot be moved if circumstances demanded. realized that the footprint the mining center took as part of the nuclear island itself was not substantial and did not have a large impact (increase) on the size of the land it would need to build the site.
alpha labs received permit approval for the construction of alpha-1, its flagship nuclear plant with bitcoin mining co-location in the second half of 2016. it was now ready for construction.
All of this was happening while beta labs were busy developing their own nuclear reactor technology and making amazing progress. it had gone through the design process, completed all hardware and component testing in 2014, and had had commitments to the nrc around the license since 2012. beta labs opted for a traditional nuclear plant with no bitcoin mining co-location, since that no one in particular sold him on the idea of this innovation, even though he had heard about the Alpha Labs announcement in early 2014.
had had some preliminary discussions to understand the alpha labs’ decision-making, but decided against pursuing a similar strategy, in part due to the fact that there were no resources in the public markets to guide him through the use case of alpha labs. bitcoin mining placement. with its built reactor. beta labs received its building permit approval in the second half of 2016 and was ready to build its own.
both alpha and beta labs sought to build a 1 gigawatt electrical (gwe) (or 2.5 gigawatt thermal (gwth), 40% efficient) nuclear plant from the earliest days. in 2014, alpha labs changed course and announced a plan to build and deploy 2 gwe (or 5 gwth, 40% efficient) reactors, with 1 gwe to be used to sell electricity to the grid, while the rest 1 gwe would be used solely for on-site bitcoin mining.
See also: El Salvador Botches Bitcoin Adoption