Microsoft is using AI to get its nuclear projects approved in the US

Image of a Nuclear power plant at sunset
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Microsoft is using large language models (LLMs) to expedite the approval process for nuclear power projects that will fuel its future artificial intelligence (AI) and supercomputing energy requirements.

A team at Microsoft has spent the previous six months training an AI model with US nuclear regulations and licensing documents to assist with generating paperwork for nuclear power projects, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The tech giant hopes the model will help speed up the lengthy and costly approvals process for nuclear power projects using the latest reactor technologies.

The energy demands of AI systems are expected to be a significant constraint for organizations moving forward, particularly for hyperscalers hosting data centers underpinning the biggest foundation models. 

As hyperscalers grow and these models become more sophisticated and provide new functionalities, their energy demands will soar. 

Microsoft’s senior director Michelle Patron said if the company wants to scale its models in a sustainable way it will need to use every weapon in its arsenal, including AI.

“If we're going to do that [grow] carbon-free, we're going to need all the tools in the tool kit,” she told the WSJ.

Microsoft nuclear power ambitions are gathering pace

In September 2023, Microsoft made its nuclear ambitions clear by posting a job description for a ‘principal program manager for nuclear technology’.

The program manager was sought to lead a technical investigation using small modular reactors (SMRs) to provide energy for Microsoft’s AI and cloud computing data centers.

SMRs can generate around one-third of the production capacity of conventional large nuclear reactors and their smaller footprint gives added flexibility for site selection. 

Its modular design also means deployment is far simpler, where manufacturing facilities can fabricate SMR units to be shipped and installed across a wide range of locations, driving down installation and design costs.

With these advantages, SMRs present a tempting value proposition for reliable green energy production, but some SMR developers in the UK have called for planning rules to be relaxed as they don’t reflect the flexibility SMRs can bring.


Brain hovering above a chip on a motherboard, denoting AI and hardware

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The enterprise’s guide for Generative AI

Make the most of the opportunities GenAI offers


Microsoft faces a similar challenge in the US, with the Vogtle Unit 3 nuclear power plant that came online in July 2023 being the only nuclear power project to open since 2016.

At the moment, NuScale Power is the only SMR developer to have had its design approved by the US’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the project is reported to have cost around $500 million with a 12,000 page application and two million pages of supporting documentation.

Microsoft hopes its model trained on the NRC regulatory framework will assist in producing the application quickly and for a fraction of the cost.

Solomon Klappholz
Staff Writer

Solomon Klappholz is a Staff Writer at ITPro. He has experience writing about the technologies that facilitate industrial manufacturing which led to him developing a particular interest in IT regulation, industrial infrastructure applications, and machine learning.