Microsoft is considering tiny nuclear reactors because it needs so much power to train their AI

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Large language model training is a very power-intensive procedure with a high carbon footprint. Data centers need an absurdly high amount of electricity to function, which, depending on where that energy comes from, might result in significant greenhouse gas emissions.

According to The Verge, Microsoft is now planning to move forward with a plan to power them using nuclear reactors since it is placing such a large investment in AI. Yes, you read it correctly: according to a recent job posting, the corporation intends to deploy small modular reactors (SMRs) to expand its energy infrastructure.

SMRs are more flexible and less expensive to develop than large-scale nuclear power plants, at least in principle. Additionally, there is at least some momentum for the concept in the US; only last year, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a design for a nuclear reactor built by NuScale Power, an Oregon-based firm.

However, Microsoft will need to cross a number of additional obstacles before it can begin using nuclear power to train its AIs.

It will need to find a functional SMR design to start. Then, as The Verge notes, it will need to find out how to obtain the highly enriched uranium fuel that these compact reactors usually need. Lastly, it will need to find a long-term storage solution for all of that nuclear waste.

Bill Gates, the creator of Microsoft, also founded TerraPower, an incubator for SMR concepts. The company, TerraPower, “does not currently have any agreements to sell reactors to Microsoft,” a CNBC statement reads.

Microsoft is investing in nuclear fusion in addition to nuclear fission, which is a much more ambitious project considering the many decades of study that have not resulted in a workable power system.

However, earlier this year, the corporation entered into a power purchase deal with Helion, a fusion startup led by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, with the intention of purchasing electricity from the company as early as 2028.

Microsoft has enormous power and water expenses to pay for right now, regardless of where it gets its electricity from, and these bills are only going to get bigger given the increasing popularity of artificial intelligence.

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