It's a highly ambitious plan.
Training large language models is an incredibly power-intensive process that has an immense carbon footprint. Keeping data centers running requires a ludicrous amount of electricity that could generate substantial amounts of greenhouse emissions — depending, of course, on the energy's source.
Now, The Verge reports, Microsoft is betting so big on AI that its pushing forward with a plan to power them using nuclear reactors. Yes, you read that right; a recent job listing suggests the company is planning to grow its energy infrastructure with the use of small modular reactors (SMR.)
At least in theory, SMRs are cheaper to build and more flexible than full-scale nuclear power stations. And there's at least some momentum behind the idea in the US — the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission a greenlit a design by Oregon-based nuclear reactor company NuScale Power just last year.
Small and Modular
But before Microsoft can start relying on nuclear power to train its AIs, it'll have plenty of other hurdles to overcome.
For one, it'll have to source a working SMR design. Then, it'll have to figure out how to get its hands on a highly enriched uranium fuel that these small reactors typically require, as The Verge points out. Finally, it'll need to figure out a way to store all of that nuclear waste long term.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates also started an incubator for SMR designs called TerraPower. However, TerraPower "does not currently have any agreements to sell reactors to Microsoft," according to a statement to CNBC.
Nevertheless, the company signed a power purchase agreement with Helion, a fusion startup founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman earlier this year, with the hopes of buying electricity from it as soon as 2028.
Regardless of where it gets its electricity from, Microsoft has some massive power and water bills to pay for right now — and given the growing hype surrounding AI, they're only likely to grow.
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