Amazon’s New Data Center Goes Nuclear

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Nuclear energy will power Amazon’s new data center in Pennsylvania, which it acquired for $650 million.

  • The Cumulus data center boasts an initial capacity of 48 megawatts, with plans for expansion to 475 megawatts.
  • The surge in data center energy demands has prompted the tech sector to explore alternative energy options beyond wind and solar.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has acquired a nuclear-powered secure data center in Pennsylvania for a staggering $650 million.

The agreement between Amazon’s cloud computing unit and Talen Energy points to the tech sector’s renewed interest in sustainable energy solutions.

The Cumulus data center is located next to Talen’s gigawatt Susquehanna nuclear power plant. It has an initial capacity of 48 megawatts, but AWS has plans to expand to 475 megawatts. At some point in the future, the data center’s capacity may reach 960 megawatts. The data center management part is on AWS, while the Susquehanna nuclear power plant would supply the energy.

And Amazon is not the only tech giant looking into renewable energy to meet the sector’s ever-increasing energy demands. In recent years, this need has skyrocketed, mainly due to the industry’s incessant work on artificial intelligence (AI) and its love for cloud computing. Did you know that generative AI has a water footprint? So, the sustainability of the data centers is an important topic.

Both cloud computing and AI rely on data centers, and those are blackholes of energy, using roughly 1,000 kWh per square meter daily. The more we expand our tech capabilities, the more data centers we need. According to the Wall Street Journal, we will see a 50% surge in energy that data centers consume over the next three years.

But what about renewable energy sources for data centers, like wind and solar? They just aren’t enough. An Amazon spokesperson told Inc., “To supplement our wind and solar energy projects, which depend on weather conditions to generate energy, we’re also exploring new innovations and technologies, and investing in other sources of clean, carbon-free energy.”

The energy surge is forcing the tech sector’s hand to dive into alternative options for energy efficiency at the data centers. Nuclear energy is a valid option, no doubt there. But humanity is still traumatized by the 1986 Chornobyl disaster. The times have indeed changed, however, and companies are much stricter with their safety measures.

Regardless of the fear and paranoia, this turn of events is great news for the nuclear energy sector. For a while now, that sector has been on the back burner. While AI was making headlines, nuclear energy only took up footnotes. But this partnership will change the game.

The nuclear energy sector is not struggling by any means. However, tech companies backing the companies and giving them access to their deep deep pockets may usher in a new era of nuclear energy. Tech companies are not that charitable with their money. But they like to throw money at their problems. This means that if they do encounter obstacles in using nuclear energy for their sustainable data centers, they’ll pay to innovate it away.

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