Ryan MacLeod is a Bitcoiner working in the reactor research and safety programs at Canadian Nuclear Labs. In this interview, we discuss the importance and safety of nuclear energy, and how Ryan is trying to orange pill the nuclear industry by showing how Bitcoin aids the economic case.
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“Bitcoin mining can be plugged into the existing nuclear fleet as it and shore up the economics right now, because a lot of the reactors that are being shut down are because they’re not economically competitive on a grid that has a large share of wind and solar.”
— Ryan MacLeod
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The growing consensus is that nuclear energy needs to play a critical part in providing society’s energy needs. It is both a low-carbon energy source, energy-dense, and (dependent upon operation) reliable. And yet, nuclear only provides 10% of the world’s energy needs, down from 18% in 1996. Whilst the IAEA forecasts only a 12% contribution by 2050 in its high-case projection.
The issue to date has been the safety concerns regarding nuclear energy. High-profile accidents have clouded the public’s perception of the nuclear industry and influenced anti-nuclear policies in numerous countries. The build-out of new nuclear capacity dropped significantly after Chernobyl, an accident that some feared had come close to making half of Europe uninhabitable.
The reality is that Chernobyl was an accident unlike any other, which indicated the malaise of a waning superpower, rather than an industry that was inherently dangerous. Since then, reactor technology and the treatment of waste have continued to improve. We are now on the cusp of countries being able to roll out Small Modular Reactors that are cheaper, safer and more scalable than existing designs. It has the potential to revolutionize nuclear power just when we need it.
And yet, the economics of nuclear energy are still challenging. High capital costs mean that nuclear facilities need to have a high capacity to make the investment worthwhile. Cheaper energy from solar and wind are adding to the complexity of the issue. There are other uses for nuclear energy that can be monetised, but these have their own specific infrastructure and operational requirements.
This is where Bitcoin mining could provide a bridge. It eliminates the concept of surplus baseload generation, bolstering the economic bottom line of both old and new reactors. And it can do this from day one. So, could Bitcoin mining be the catalyst for a renaissance of the nuclear industry? If so, it will be young professionals such as Ryan MacLeod who are helping to lead the change.