AWS just dropped $650 million on a data center built next to a 2.5 gigawatt nuclear power station - and it still might not be enough to keep pace with surging future energy demands

Nuclear power station cooling towers, similar to those at the Susquehanna nuclear power station in Pennsylvania next to the Cumulus data center owned by AWS.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced plans to acquire a nuclear-powered data center campus as part of a major deal with a US-based electricity provider. 

The cloud giant confirmed it will acquire the Cumulus data center complex, located next to the 2.5 gigawatt Susquehanna nuclear power station in Pennsylvania, as part of a $650 million deal with Talen Energy.

Talen said the deal will see AWS gain access both to the data center facility along with the power infrastructure of the adjacent nuclear station.

Talen Energy will provide AWS with direct access to energy from the site, the company confirmed, with the cloud provider expecting to have up to 960 megawatts of power at its disposal in the coming years.

AWS eyes alternative energy sources

The announcement is the latest in a string of moves by Amazon aimed at diversifying its energy sources and reducing carbon emissions. 

Last month, the company signed an agreement with Oregon-based wind farm provider Avangrid to tap into renewable energy sources. The site, which includes 40 wind turbines, is capable of delivering up to 90 megawatts of power.

Across 2023, Amazon ramped up renewable energy investments, with company statistics showing it was the largest corporate buyer of clean energy sources globally, investing in more than 100 solar and wind energy projects.

This surge in funding for renewable energy forms a core part of its efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2040.

The rise of the nuclear-powered cloud

AWS isn’t alone in exploring the potential of nuclear power to support data center operations, either. In 2022, Microsoft unveiled a power purchase agreement with US-based Helion Energy as part of a contract to build an operational nuclear fusion plant.

Media reports in September last year suggested that the tech giant was hiring for a principal program manager to lead its nuclear energy strategy. A job listing by the firm said it was seeking someone to “lead project initiatives for all aspects of nuclear energy infrastructure for global growth”.

In January, the company hired Archana Manoharan as director of nuclear technologies to lead the development of small-scale atomic reactors.

Manoharan previously served as director for nuclear strategy and programs at Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporate (USNC), an organization specializing in the development of Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) technologies.

With data center energy demands skyrocketing globally over the last 18 months, hyperscalers are looking to alternative sources of clean energy to meet insatiable customer appetites.

A recent study from JLL found that generative AI and high-performance computing (HPC) workload demands were pushing data center operators to near-breaking point.

Generative AI specifically is expected to be a major driver of global electricity consumption in the coming years, according to research, with the European Commission estimating that power demands will have increased 60% by 2030.

The current situation means many data center operators are struggling to meet surging power requirements ranging between 300MW to 500MW, prompting a drastic shift in site selection criteria and design.

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

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