AWS’ Nuclear AI Data Centre Plan Questioned By Experts

AWS’ plan to build a $650 million nuclear-powered data centre with Talen Energy is being argued by US utility companies, who worry it will increase electricity costs for citizens. The company wants to build this data centre as a solution to handling the increasing energy demands brought on by AI.

Other companies, such as Google also have data centres dedicated to AI, however this would be a first that uses nuclear energy.

Understanding Nuclear Power

Nuclear power is created as a from of nuclear reactions. World Nuclear, an organisation, says 15% of the UK’s electricity supply is through nuclear power. In the UK, nuclear power plants can produce up to 6.5 gigawatts of electricity currently, with the government planning for it to go up to 25% by 2050.

“As outlined in the British Energy Security Strategy (2022) and the Powering Up Britain strategy (2023), the government remains committed to an ambition to deliver up to 24GW by 2050,” they report.

Who Built The First Nuclear Power Plants?

In a document on nuclear energy, the government explains its origins in the UK, saying, “In 1956, Calder Hall was the first nuclear plant to supply electricity to the public supply grid, followed by Chapelcross in 1959. A further 17 nuclear plants came online over the next four decades: eight in the 60’s, three in the 70’s, and five in the 80’s.”

Globally, Obninsk was the very first, and was built in the 1950s. This was after the World War had concluded, and where the “atomic age” had already begun.


What Is The Science Behind Nuclear Power?

Protons and neutrons make up an atomic nucleus, and nuclear power is created when these atoms split, referred to as the fission process, or come together- the fusion process. Fission splits heavier atoms such as uranium to release energy, and fusion combines lighter atoms like hydrogen isotopes to create energy.

The fission process is simple. It starts where uranium is mined and processed. The processed uranium is then placed into metal tubes called fuel rods that are put into a reactor core where the uranium atoms split, releasing heat. This heat warms water, creating steam. The steam drives a turbine connected to a generator, making electricity. Afterward, the steam cools back into water and is reused.

Not as simple as fission, the fusion process happens as a result of a gas called plasma being created as the isotopes are heated. Right now, the fission method is the mainly used one between the two, in nuclear power plants, and fusion is still being experimented as the safer option.

Is Nuclear Power Harmful?

Even though nuclear uses less emissions than other energy sources, unlike coal power, it has said to have its downfalls. It be harmful due to the reactors producing radioactive waste, which can be dangerous, even for hundreds of years to follow.

Exposure to radiation, even in smaller amounts, can over time cause illnesses such as cancer. Nuclear would also be a risk to the environment, and a cause of disasters such as earthquakes as a result of the releases.

With the dangers in mind, as well as the issue of electricity costing more for those who will be affected, AWS will determine what they will do when it comes to their latest project.