Microsoft is looking to fuel its future AI plans with nuclear, according to a recent moves by the company.
AI notoriously requires huge amounts of energy on a daily basis, and with more and more of us using it, and companies investing heavily in the technology, the scramble for power is ramping up.
With Microsoft throwing its weight (and money) behind AI, including huge investments in OpenAI, it seems nuclear power could be the key to its success.
Microsoft Going Nuclear to Fuel Power-Hungry AI
The Washington based tech giant, which recently overtook Apple as the most valuable company in the world, now looks set to go nuclear to facilitate its AI plans.
Due to the explosive arrival of AI, consuming a whopping four times more power than cloud servers, Microsoft appears to be preparing for this increased demand to power their data centers as they continue to accelerate their growth plans in the AI arena.
Among other signs that Microsoft will be looking to nuclear power to plan for the shortfall in energy is the appointment of a Director of Nuclear Development Acceleration last week.
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Data Center Energy Shortfall
Data centers, the things that physically store and share applications and data, require an enormous amount of energy to run. These giant storage units, responsible for 1-1.5% of global electricity consumption, have traditionally relied on renewable sources like solar and wind but it seems as though renewable energy just won’t be able to keep up with the demand required moving forward.
To put the size of the problem into perspective, McKinsey wrote that a hyperscaler’s data center can use as much power as 80,000 households do.
In the same article, McKinsey forecasted that the power needed to facilitate US data centers are set to jump from 17 gigawatts (GW) in 2022 to 35 GW by 2030 increasing the pressure on them to utilize carbon-free energy from regulators, governments and the general public.
More Signs of Microsoft’s Nuclear Energy Plans
In a Linkedin post, Erin Henderson, PhD, MBA, PMP, announced that she will be taking up the position of Director of Nuclear Development Acceleration. Whilst nuclear energy is not renewable, Henderson, armed with over 13 years of experience at the Tennessee Valley Authority, will be driving forward the global strategy for small modular reactors and microreactors that Microsoft believes will help achieve a carbon-free future.
In another LinkedIn post by Todd Noe, Microsoft’s Director of Nuclear & Energy Innovation, he shared the company’s vision to deploy “a multi-technology approach that includes renewables, energy efficiency, storage, and firm carbon-free sources such as advanced nuclear and fusion.”
A recent collaboration between Microsoft and Terra Praxis, a non-profit advocating for repurposing old coal plants into SMR facilities, further underlines the company's nuclear ambitions. According to reports from Data Center Dynamics, together, they developed a generative AI model to streamline the lengthy and costly nuclear regulatory process, showcasing Microsoft's commitment to making nuclear power a viable option for its data centers.
Microsoft’s Plans to Dominate in AI
Microsoft bet big on AI, around one year ago they shared results from a survey they conducted that showed that 90% of businesses wanted to use AI. They were one of the first big tech companies to realize the huge potential of AI and subsequently invested billions in OpenAI, the San Francisco artificial intelligence lab behind the experimental chatbot, ChatGPT. In January 2023, the partnership was announced in what they referred to as “multiyear, multibillion-dollar” investment.
With an early lead on the Artificial Intelligence race, Microsoft launched its own AI chatbot built on OpenAI technology, Bing Chat on February 7, 2023. Bing Chat was relatively short lived and evolved into Microsoft Copilot by November 2023 in a rebranding exercise that brought all AI-powered Microsoft platforms under the Copilot brand.
Microsoft's foray into nuclear power is bound to raise eyebrows and concerns about safety and waste disposal will need to be addressed in due course.
However, as AI continues to reshape our world, the need for sustainable, powerful energy solutions becomes ever more pressing. Microsoft's embrace of nuclear power, not without its challenges, presents a bold and potentially game-changing approach to fueling the future of technology.