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Russians Detained After Attempt To Mine Bitcoin At Nuclear Facility

Kitco News

Russians Detained After Attempt To Mine Bitcoin At Secret Nuclear Facility

(Kitco News) - Russian authorities arrested several engineers working at one of the country’s top nuclear research facilities after reports that they tried to mine bitcoin using the center’s computers.

Some media reports even suggested that the perpetrators tried to connect to the nuclear facility’s supercomputer, which was installed there in 2011 with a capacity of one petaflop.

The nuclear facility used by the engineers is located in the city of Sarov, which was a top-secret location known for the development of the Soviet Union’s very first atomic bomb.

Individuals who still live in Sarov — located 250 miles east of Moscow — are subject to travel restrictions as the town is considered to be a “closed city” due to its nuclear research and development facility.

The bitcoin miners reportedly tried to connect to the computers that were permanently kept offline for security purposes. The individuals ended up triggering an alarm when establishing an internet connection, which eventually alerted the Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), according to media reports.

“Their activities were stopped in time,” a spokeswoman for the center, Tatiana Zalesskaya, told Interfax news agency.

Zalesskaya confirmed that there was “an attempt to use the work computing facilities for personal ends, including for so-called mining.”

“The bungling miners have been detained by the competent authorities. As far as I know, a criminal case has been opened regarding them,” she said.

Bitcoin mining requires a lot of computing power and high electricity usage, which is what makes research centers like Sarov’s very attractive for illegal bitcoin miners.

A recent study, conducted by the cryptocurrency tracking site Digitconomist, revealed that bitcoin mining is even more polluting and energy-intensive than gold mining. 

“When you’re deciding whether to hold physical gold or Bitcoin, gold might just be the greener option, and it has the added benefit that it will continue to function even if mining stops completely,” Alex de Vries, founder of Digitconomist, said in a post.

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