Russian authorities say they have arrested several engineers employed at the the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics in Sarov, a top secret nuclear weapons facility, because they were involved in a cryptocurrency-mining scheme at work.
A surviving Tsar Bomba casing at Sarov’s nuclear weapons museum. (Screenshot: Facebook/VNIIEF)
The tightly guarded nuclear facility is where the USSR’s first nuclear bomb was built. According to the BBC, it has about 20,000 employees and one of the country’s strongest supercomputers, which can run at one petaflop, or perform a quadrillion operations per second. That’s ideal for running nuclear scientific calculations and simulations.
According to some Russian media reports, the employees tried to use the power of the supercomputer to mine cryptocurrency, and were detected when they attempted to connect the usually offline machine to the internet.
Mining is a way to amass cryptocoins without paying for them. But it requires massive amounts of computing power and energy. Recently it has become more difficult for small-scale miners to compete with major operations with mighty mining setups. And now those mining startups might also have to compete with nuclear facility supercomputers.
A spokesperson for the facility told Russian news agency Interfax that “there was an attempt to unauthorised use of office computing capacities for personal purposes, including for so-called mining”.
Aside from the fact that this operation was happening in a government facility, it makes sense that Russia is cracking down on crypto-mining operations. After all, the country is on the brink of launching an official state cryptocurrency, which is likely a way for the government to manoeuvre around international sanctions.