US govt wants to talk to tech companies about AI electricity demands — eyes nuclear fusion and fission

Key Points:

  • The Biden administration is fast-tracking talks with tech companies to address their increasing electricity demands for AI data centers.
  • Nuclear power is being considered as a potential solution, with the idea of tech companies putting “small nuclear plants” nearby their data centers.
  • Big tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are heavily investing in nuclear fusion and nuclear fission as they continue to build data centers and focus on AI research.

Summary:

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is engaging in fast-tracked discussions with tech companies as their electricity demands for AI data centers continue to surge. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm highlighted the pressing need for power, emphasizing that AI itself isn’t the issue but can provide solutions. To tackle this challenge, the Department of Energy is contemplating the placement of “small nuclear plants” near massive data centers to satisfy energy requirements.

 

Nuclear power accounted for 18.6% of U.S. electricity in 2023, as per the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Recently, the Energy Department approved a $1.52 billion loan to revive a nuclear power plant in Michigan, signaling a potential shift towards nuclear energy adoption by tech firms. Companies like Microsoft, Google, OpenAI, Amazon, and Meta are heavily investing in nuclear fusion and exploring new supercomputing projects that demand substantial power consumption, manifesting the critical importance of clean and reliable energy sources.

 

While nuclear fission using small modular reactors presents an alternative, it comes with significant costs. Granholm revealed that the DOE is striving to reduce expenses and enhance the feasibility of these reactors to attract corporate interest. The dominance of technologies from companies such as Nvidia and AMD in AI applications necessitates substantial power resources, with next-gen chips like Nvidia’s Blackwell GB200 NVL72 potentially consuming over 100kW per rack. As data centers continue to expand, the quest for multi-megawatt and even gigawatt power capacities remains a top concern.

 

As the tech industry’s data center and AI research initiatives intensify, the collaboration between governmental bodies and tech giants to meet escalating power demands becomes increasingly crucial. The potential integration of nuclear power solutions could not only address the energy prerequisites of AI advancements but also bolster the transition towards cleaner energy practices across the United States. Stay updated on the latest developments in enthusiast PC technology news with Tom’s Hardware, delivering comprehensive insights into CPUs, GPUs, AI innovations, maker hardware, and more for over 25 years. Sign up for breaking news and detailed product reviews directly to your inbox.

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