Microsoft Goes Atomic and Hires a Director of Nuclear Development Acceleration

Data centers are recognized for using an astonishing amount of energy; it is estimated that they account for 1.5% to 2% of all electricity used worldwide.

In an effort to become more environmentally conscious and to combat climate change, IT companies have mostly concentrated on powering these through sustainable and renewable energy sources. However, the effort is becoming more difficult because of the growing energy demand brought about by introducing new technologies like AI, since this field alone uses around four times as much power as servers use for cloud applications.

Microsoft has appointed a Director of Nuclear Development Acceleration, a rather contentious move, in recognition of the impending challenges on its data centers.

The power needs of US data centers are expected to increase from 17 gigawatts (GW) in 2022 to 35 GW by 2030, according to McKinsey. there are other issues than just electricity. Artificial Intelligence (AI) GPUs require more cooling than traditional servers, and Microsoft's water use in data centers increased by 34% in 2022. This number is expected to rise as the tech company continues to invest more in AI.

Stepping into this job is Erin Henderson, PhD, MBA, PMP, who brings a lot of experience from her 13-year tenure with the Tennessee Valley Authority, where she served as the General Manager of Transmission Projects.

Henderson's responsibilities will include developing a global plan for Microsoft's data centers to be powered by microreactors and small modular reactors (SMR). Yes, you are correct—the business is going nuclear.

Henderson announced her new position on LinkedIn, writing, "I am very excited to share that I've joined Microsoft in a new role, Director of Nuclear Development Acceleration. Microsoft is leading the way in advocating for a clean and sustainable energy future. I am looking forward to contributing to the data center R&D team's success."

According to a recent report by Data Center Dynamics, Microsoft worked with Terra Praxis, a nonprofit that promotes converting abandoned coal plant sites into contemporary SMR homes, for six months.

Microsoft's nuclear aspirations are clear from the two companies' joint work on a generative AI model to expedite the drawn-out and costly nuclear regulation and licensing procedure.


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