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Data Is the New Uranium

When I first considered moving to San Luis Obispo, California, I learned of the nearby Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, and almost subscribed to a “not in my backyard” syndrome. But our power grids are strained by many things—including a computing revolution driven by artificial intelligence (AI), causing server stacks in data centers to consume more and more energy. Plus, our longstanding reliance on fossil fuel has grown our climate crisis, causing much concern.

Nuclear power, however, with zero emissions and longstanding sustainability, is a potential boon to our climate crisis—if we can find ways to expedite its growth. As I got to know the community and the many people employed at Diablo Canyon, I gained more confidence in the safety and viability of nuclear power and nuclear energy as a solution, and believe it is time to move it forward.

The Changing Landscape of Nuclear Energy

Past public perception and acceptance of nuclear energy, given its perceived risk, has stymied its advancement. Nowadays, however, leaders and many like me have greater confidence and support for nuclear energy as a safe, viable, and sustainable power source. According to a 2023 study by the Pew Research Center, “a majority of Americans (57%) say they favor more nuclear power plants to generate electricity in the country, up from 43% who said this in 2020.”

At the recent U.N. Climate Conference (COP28), the Biden-Harris administration announced that it planned to be “co-leading coalitions of countries to triple renewable energy and nuclear energy capacity globally.” Then, in a bipartisan show of support, the Atomic Energy Advancement Act (H.R. 6544) passed on February 28, 2024. The bill, which still must make it through the U.S. Senate and the President, “establishes various requirements to accelerate the deployment of nuclear energy technologies, such as advanced nuclear reactors.” It also directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to “efficiently license and regulate nuclear energy activities.”

AI-Powered Search: Unlocking Nuclear Data Efficiency

The complexity of nuclear power means that disciplined safeguards must be in place. It’s important for the NRC, along with its regulatory compliance and data requirements, to prevail and be enforced to safeguard the risks of nuclear power production.

Entry into and expansion within the nuclear industry presents challenges as regulatory compliance must be met and adhered to by nuclear operators and stakeholders. A means to have all necessary data and information to make informed decisions is imperative and will be a boon to the NRC as well as operators who work within their oversight and regulatory umbrella. Access to nuclear data can help drive decisions and shape actions that expedite processes related to expansion of nuclear power.

Repositories of data—structured and unstructured—in millions of documents and digital artifacts, reside in the NRC’s Agency-wide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) as publicly available documents. However, accessing the information and data in the ADAMS database is difficult to navigate and efficiently search, mine, and utilize. Download every single document from ADAMS—all 52 million pages—and apply some of the most advanced AI techniques to read these documents, understand the words, their syntax, and context, via a robust tool built on AI, and it just may be the catalyst that can help. A robust AI search platform can and will greatly help navigate and discover critical and accurate information expeditiously and help drive important decisions, while saving time and cutting cost.

An AI search platform can provide necessary data and information in a fraction of the time ordinarily required by legacy methods. Using the horsepower of AI search not only cuts time, but also drastically cuts cost. This can greatly help with permitting, licensing, and new construction, as well as most facets of existing operations. A robust AI-powered search platform not only benefits the NRC—as it helps their regulated operators comply more effectively, but it also benefits the operators who need ways to navigate through complex layers of requirements necessary to maintain safety.

The Road Ahead

The accessibility, reliability, and accuracy of nuclear data and information, via robust AI search technology, is crucial to advance nuclear power in our world today. It is a call for a new data renaissance within the nuclear industry and stands to accelerate the forward progress of nuclear power at a timely juncture, when the world around us seems to want nuclear more than ever before. Data is the new uranium.

Trey Lauderdale is the CEO and founder of Atomic Canyon, whose advanced AI platform is a knowledgeable navigator, making data more accessible and promoting industry knowledge-sharing across the nuclear energy sector.