Bitcoin miners may push Kazakhstan towards nuclear power despite its uneasy history

Bitcoin miners may push Kazakhstan towards nuclear power despite its uneasy history
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  • Kazakhstan’s President is a proponent of nuclear power, but the country has a legacy of disasters caused by nuclear tests.
  • The country’s share in the global crypto mining hash rates have grown four folds over the past year.
  • An energy shortage was ensuing in Kazakhstan well before miners entered the fray to make the burgeoning problem worse.
China shunned Bitcoin miners, forcing them to move to other countries, like it’s neighbour Kazakhstan. But wherever miners go, they take their massive electricity requirements with them. Which is why the former Soviet Union state is now looking to nuclear power to meet its needs, despite its torrential history with the resource.

The country is betting on crypto mining to give a boost to its economy — a $1.5 billion boost over the next five years, according to the country’s Data Center Industry and Blockchain Association (NABDC). And, data compiled by the University of Cambridge shows that Kazakhstan’s share in mining hash rate has quadrupled over the past one year, which makes it the second largest mining hub in the world after the US.

This includes the 87,849 mining machines from Chinese companies that shifted base after the crackdown as per the Financial Times. However, the sudden boom has led to a shortage of domestic power supply in the country. Kazakhstan’s President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, believes that nuclear energy may be the inevitable solution to the problem.

In a meeting on November 19, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of the country, told bankers that a nuclear power plant could help ease the impact on the country’s electricity grids.


Looking into the future, we will have to make an unpopular decision about the construction of a nuclear power plant.

Kazakhstan’s President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, told bankers at a meeting in the nation’s largest city, Atla, last Friday

Kazakhstan’s plans to reintroduce nuclear energy may make some uneasy

Despite the economic potential, Tokayev’s decision to try out nuclear power would be unnerving to many citizens. After all, Kazakhstan has a history of troubles with nuclear power.

The issues date back to August 1949, when a blast at the Russian Semipalatinsk nuclear testing site rocked the country. This nuclear test released 22 kilotons of TNT into the atmosphere, and was the first of 456 such nuclear explosions conducted in the country in that era.

Bitcoin miners may push Kazakhstan towards nuclear power despite its uneasy history
The Semipalatinsk Test Site , also known as 'The Polygon', was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union's nuclear weaponsCTBTO via Wikimedia Commons

The history is evidently important as well, since 87% of Kazakhstan’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels right now, despite being one of the richest countries in terms of Uranium deposits. Another 12% of the country’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power, which shows a general reluctance to turn to nuclear power. The country had shut down its only nuclear power plant back in 1999.

“Kazakhstan has some of the largest uranium deposits in the world and is the world’s largest uranium producer. Although plans have long existed to build additional nuclear power plants, little progress has been made on constructing these units. Kazakhstan’s economy is highly energy-intensive and uses two to three times more energy than the average for OECD countries,” said a post by the International Trade Administration, from last year.

To be clear, Tokayev himself has been a proponent of moving forward with nuclear power. “I myself believe that it’s time to substantially consider this issue, since Kazakhstan needs a nuclear power plant,” he said at a business forum in September.

In May, Taokyev had said that nuclear “phobias are inappropriate” and that while the country wouldn’t rush to nuclear power, it should not take too long either, as it stands to face an energy deficit by 2030. A entry of Bitcoin and other crypto miners may have brought that timeline even closer.

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