Russian scientists working at a secret Russian nuclear warhead plant have been placed under arrest for purported crypto mining.
According to a report in the BBC, security officials in Russia made the arrests on Friday (Feb. 9) after the scientists tried to use the country’s supercomputers to mine for bitcoins. The nuclear plant’s security department was alerted when the supercomputer was connected to the internet and the Federal Security Service was notified.
The plant’s press office said in a statement that there has been an “unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes, including so-called mining.” It went on to tell the Interfax news agency that a criminal case has been lodged against the scientists. The BBC noted that The Federal Nuclear Centre has 20,000 employees and a supercomputer that has a capacity of 1 petaflop, which is equivalent to 1,000 trillion calculations per second.
With bitcoin mining requiring a significant amount of computing power, reports have surfaced that other Russian industrial facilities are being employed to mine for cryptocurrency. As the BBC noted, one businessman reportedly purchased power stations to mine for cryptocurrency.
The arrests come at a time when bitcoin miners are looking beyond China to set up mining shops. Facing pressure from the Chinese government, bitcoin mining collectives are shifting their operations overseas, Bloomberg reported.
Bitmain, which runs China’s two largest bitcoin-mining collectives, is setting up a regional headquarters in Singapore and has expanded its operations to the U.S. and Canada. Another mining pool, BTC.TOP, has also chosen to open a facility in Canada. Their decisions highlight how China’s role as the cryptocurrency leader is diminishing, as its government clamps down on mining operations.
Until recently, China’s bitcoin mining industry has flourished, given the country’s cheap labor, inexpensive electricity and chip manufacturing capabilities. But with the latest directive, which comes on the heels of news that the Chinese government will ban ICOs and shutter bitcoin exchanges, mining collectives are seeing the benefits of operating elsewhere.