Belgium-based Tractebel (part of France’s Engie) and its subsidiary company RED, have published a White Paper on how advanced reactors, including small modular reactors (SMRs), can supply energy to data centre communities. “Powering the 4th Industrial Revolution – Pioneering Data Centre Partnerships with Advanced Nuclear Technology” says data usage and processing are poised to undergo a radical expansion. The 32-page report notes “our ever-growing need for heightened connectivity and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assist our daily requirements for efficiency, creativity, and automation of repetitive tasks”.

The combined electricity consumption of Big Tech firms is projected to exceed that of some developed countries because of the hyper-exponential growth of Data Centres (DC). “One thing is clear: DCs are there to stay and a sustainable growth-planning process is crucial.”

Powering this remarkable growth needs to take heed of “one of the greatest challenges of 21st Century: the energy quadrilemma”. This refers to the affordability, sustainability, security of supply, and social impact of future energy systems. “Renewables are our greatest hope for a sustainable and socially acceptable transition, yet they suffer from intermittency. Against this backdrop of increased demand for clean energy, advanced nuclear offers a complementary and emission free solution.”

The report says: “Addressing this DC growth requires a paradigm shift and a new form of energy partnership: a transformative new approach that would plan DC construction and growth by adopting …SMRs, and respect all four aspects of the quadrilemma.” SMRs are designed to last over four decades, require long-term high-skilled local employment and offer a perfect platform for green growth, provisioning for an AI-driven expansion and leveraging on the 4th industrial revolution to build lasting infrastructure legacies.

“Instead of adopting ephemeral solutions, DC planners have the means to make a difference and change the course of the energy market…. Despite offering affordability, security of supply, and sustainability, SMRs have thus far been overlooked. If their mass production is to succeed in offering economies of scale, both a secure supply chain and end-user agreements by energy intensive users are needed. This presents a unique partnership opportunity.”

The report explores this opportunity “through the case study of an integrated deployment plan for SMRs and DCs within a microgrid guided by principles of scalability and efficiency, exploiting synergies between growth phases, green job creation and long-term energy supply stability and sustainability”.

Embracing this partnership could enable the Data Centre sector to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of 21st Century’s clean energy infrastructure and fostering a new generation of meaningful employment opportunities.

Fabio Nouchy, SMR Product Manager at Tractebel said: ““Our nuclear experts have written this thorough analysis to highlight the role that advanced nuclear technologies like SMRs and Micro Modular Reactors (MMRs) can play in meeting the growing energy demand of our modern societies. We are convinced that if data centre planners express interest in this technology, they will drive investor decisions and bolster the deployment of SMRs. They have the power to change the course of the energy market by adopting a long-term solution that can act as a catalyst for industrial clusters, and accelerate the net-zero transition.”