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US hyperscale datacentre operator completes first phase of nuclear-powered server farm campus

A US-based hyperscale datacentre operator has completed the first phase of its nuclear-powered datacentre campus, and claims the facility is now ready to receive its first tenant.

Cumulus Data claims its facility is on course to become the first in the country to be powered exclusively by nuclear energy, following the completion of its datacentre’s powered shell infrastructure in December 2022.

This marks the completion of the first phase of the datacentre’s buildout, which is located in Susquehanna, northeast Pennsylvania, and is on course to form part of a 475-megawatt server farm campus once the project is finished

The 1,200-acre campus is being billed as a “first of its kind in the US” and will be supplied with zero-carbon nuclear power directly from a neighbouring energy generation facility.

“This direct-connect, on-site power generation model enables industry-leading total cost of ownership with the most attractive power rate in the US. The size and design of the Cumulus campus offer scalability, flexibility, and time-to-market advantages with build-to-suit options, coupled with strong zero-carbon ESG [environment, social and governance] customer benefits,” the company said, in a statement.

According to the company, the facility’s design provides an answer to the “energy trilemma” facing datacentre operators around the world, whereby they are finding themselves having to meet the rapidly growing consumer demand for zero-carbon, low-cost and reliable electricity from clients, while also meeting their IT needs.

Cumulus Data CEO Alejandro Hernandez said the facility is in a position now to start welcoming tenants and to begin commercial operations later this year.

“We look forward to advancing our mission to solve the energy ‘trilemma’ which we define as the rapidly increasing consumer demand for zero-carbon, low-cost, and reliable electricity by datacentre customers, beginning with our first Cumulus Susquehanna datacentre campus.”

The company also claims the facility will provide “family sustaining jobs” and provide training opportunities for individuals who want to pursue careers in the datacentre space, with the campus set to be the first of many nuclear-powered sites it develops in future.

Using nuclear power sources to fuel datacentres is a concept that is becoming increasingly talked about within the industry, as operators look to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and pursue net-zero greenhouse gas emission strategies.

At the same time, the intermittent nature of renewable power sources – namely solar and wind – mean that operators also need to have backup sources of dispatchable energy generation that can be accessed on-demand, which includes nuclear power.

There has been some reticence within the industry towards embracing nuclear power, as alluded to in a March 2022 blog post by datacentre resiliency thinktank Uptime Institute, with the organisation going on to predict a softening in stance from operators towards using it over the coming 12 months.

“From 2022, we expect some major datacentre operators, and industry influencers and leaders, to support nuclear power more actively and openly – even pressuring governments and utilities to invest in this option,” the post read.

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