Microsoft explores use of next-generation nuclear reactors

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Microsoft is exploring the use of next-generation nuclear reactors to power its data centers and AI ambitions, according to a job listing for a principal program manager who will lead the company’s nuclear energy strategy.

Based on the new job listing, it appears that Microsoft is betting on advanced nuclear reactors to be the solution. The job posting states that the company is looking for someone to “lead project initiatives for all aspects of nuclear energy infrastructure for global growth.”

Microsoft is particularly interested in small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs are next-generation nuclear reactors that are supposed to be easier and cheaper to build than their older, much larger predecessors.

Data centers already consume a significant amount of electricity, which could thwart the company’s climate goals unless it can find clean sources of energy. Energy-hungry AI makes that an even bigger challenge for the company to overcome.

Nuclear energy does not create greenhouse gas emissions, but it also raises concerns about radioactive waste management and uranium supply chain development. The role of nuclear energy in combating climate change is still hotly debated, but Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has long been a proponent of the technology.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission just certified an SMR design for the first time in January, which allows utilities to choose the design when applying for a license for a new power plant.

These SMRs require more highly enriched uranium fuel, called HALEU, than traditional reactors. Currently, Russia is the world’s major supplier of HALEU. There is a push in the U.S. to build up a domestic supply chain of uranium, but communities near uranium mines and mills are already opposing this.

The sources for this piece include an article in TheVerge.

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