Microsoft is considering powering its data centers with nuclear reactors, according to a job listing for a “Principal Program Manager Nuclear Technology.” The listing states the company is looking for someone to examine how to integrate a small modular reactor (SMR) into its data centers’ power plans.
SMRs are much smaller than existing nuclear power plants, which allows them to be positioned right next to the data center. This adjacency mitigates any issues relating to power transmission over long distances. Companies like Microsoft are also looking for ways to shift to clean power for their data centers.
A small reactor like one from NuScale can provide 154 MWe for 12 years without needing to be refueled. Its biggest microreactor, the Voygr-12, requires just 0.05 square miles of space compared to 94 square miles for wind and 17 square miles for solar, according to the company.
The move follows Microsoft’s previous adventures in putting data centers underwater to mitigate cooling concerns. Though its early tests of these underwater units were successful, Microsoft is limited by how big it can make them, and the long-term impact of that much heat being pumped into the local marine ecosystem is also in need of investigation. Google has also been linked to previous efforts to build “water-based” data centers.
Microsoft’s Director of Nuclear Technologies Engineering wrote about the new role on LinkedIn, describing it as not just a job but a challenge. A project like this will likely take many years to come to fruition. For example, NuScale’s small modular reactor has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for use in the U.S. but isn’t expected to have a fully operational plant running until 2029.
The sources for this piece include an article in ExtremeTech.