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First U.S. nuclear-powered data center, bitcoin mine coming to Pennsylvania

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Lauren Jessop

(The Center Square) – The country’s first nuclear-powered data center and bitcoin mining operation  – located in northeastern Pennsylvania – will soon welcome its first tenant.

Cumulus Data said the first of several 48 megawatt “powered shell data center” at its 1,200-acre campus in Columbia County that will provide digital infrastructure and decarbonized energy to clients via the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Berwick is now ready for lease.

Powered shell data centers are facilities that have completed exteriors, power, and connectivity, but the interior is left unfinished, leaving customization up to the client.

The facility's direct connection to a nuclear generating station, a first-of-its-kind design according to Cumulus, advances the company's mission of solving the energy "trilemma" – defined as “the rapidly increasing consumer demand for zero-carbon, low-cost, and reliable electricity by data center customers.”

Cumulus says that in addition to addressing the energy issues necessary to power technology applications, the project will create 1,000 construction jobs and 50 permanent positions.

Also located on the campus will be a nuclear-powered bitcoin mining operation – another first of its kind.

TeraWulf announced it will open its second zero-carbon mining facility called Nautilus Cryptomine in a joint venture with Cumulus Coin.

Operations should begin before spring with a target mining capacity of 50 MW. When complete, the jointly owned facility is expected to reach 300 MW.

In March 2022, TeraWulf began mining at its Lake Mariner facility in upstate New York. Powered by hydro and solar, it uses 91 percent carbon-free energy.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data centers are one of the most energy-intensive building types, consuming 10 to 50 times the energy per floor space of a typical commercial office building.

The energy demands of bitcoin mining are even greater and are steadily increasing – and power consumption plays a significant role in the costs of mining.

It is a complicated process, but the simple explanation on how it works and why it uses so much energy is this; special-purpose computers run 24 hours a day attempting to solve cryptographic problems that validate transactions on the network. The first to do so is rewarded in the form of a bitcoin payment.

The increase in energy usage prompted the government to analyze its impact on climate.

The report said global electricity usage from crypto mining quadrupled from 2018 to 2022. Estimates as of August 2022 for crypto assets are between 120 and 240 billion kilowatt-hours per year. That range, the report says, exceeds the total annual electricity usage of many countries, such as Argentina or Australia.

In 2021, former Gov. Tom Wolf signed bipartisan legislation aimed at attracting new investment in the state by expanding tax incentives to businesses that own or operate within computer data centers.

Cumulus Data’s press release says they plan on offering customers the ability to supplement its zero-carbon offering with 400 MW of new solar generation capacity, currently under development, as well as the potential of expanding their operations to other sites across the U.S.