Kalinin nuclear power plant's new neighbor will be a data center

RosEnergoAtom Kalinin

A data center will soon be built next to RosEnergoAtom's Kalinin nuclear power station, seen here in an undated publicity shot.

Credit: RosEnergoAtom.ru

Kalinin nuclear power plant's new neighbor will be a data center.

The plant, near the city of Tver, is close to fiber-optic lines between Moscow and St Petersburg, providing the future data center with the double advantage of reliable power and fast communications links.

When completed, the data center will be the largest in Russia, with a capacity of up to 10,000 racks, the company claims.

Construction work will begin shortly, plant director Mikhail Kanyshev said Monday. The first phase is due to enter service in March 2017, and the second a year later, he said.

Nuclear reactors need to run continuously, and so are a good match for loads that, like many data centers, run 24 hours a day. RosEnergoAtom expects the Kalinin data center to consume about 80 megawatts. That's just 2 percent of the neighboring power plant's generating capacity: Its four reactors are rated at 1 gigawatt each.

High-profile data-center owners such as Google, Apple and Facebook are favoring renewable energy sources for their data centers these days as the major alternative source of energy, coal, is considered highly polluting. Russia is slowly taking steps to reduce its coal consumption, increasing the share of nuclear power in electricity generation.

In addition to reliable power and bandwidth, there's a third factor that influences the siting of data centers: cooling. Facebook chose to site one of its most recent data centers near Lulea, in the far North of Sweden, so that it can use free air cooling.

But data centers don't need to seek out such extreme climates to benefit from free cooling most of the year. This doesn't mean that the cooling is entirely without cost, but that it can be done using air pulled in from outside the data center, without the cost of installing and operating refrigeration equipment, a major consumer of electricity in many data centers.

Tver's climate sees summer highs of around 24 Celsius in July -- with highs typically under 20 Celsius from September to May, meaning the data center would be able to use free cooling for a large part of the year if the designers wished.

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