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Ukrainian nuclear plant demands worker pay for electricity stolen for illicit bitcoin mining operation

Roland Oliphant
Massive amounts of electricity are needed to

A Ukrainian nuclear power plant worker will be forced pay for "stolen" electricity after he set up an illegal bitcoin mining operation at the station.  

The illicit operation came to light when the SBU, Ukraine's internal security service, searched the facility last month and uncovered computer equipment set up to "mine" the cryptocurrency.

Mining cryptocurrencies is an expensive drain on power as it often requires vast computer servers to solve complex puzzles in exchange for virtual coins.

According to papers filed with the Central District Court in the city of Mykolaev security agents believe details of the 2,850 megawatt plant's security arrangements - which are considered a state secret in Ukraine - could have been leaked when the computers were connected to the Internet. 

Ukrainian media suggested those facing charges could include members of the National Guard who were meant to be protecting the site.   

The power station, which runs three nuclear reactors, acknowledged that an illicit mining site had been found, but denied a security breach. 

"A search was carried out which revealed that in one of the storage rooms, which is used for spare parts for auxiliary equipment, a power plant employee had placed his own computer equipment for cryptocurrency mining," the  station, which is run by EnergoAtom,  Ukraine's nuclear monopoly, said in a statement. 

"The internal investigation revealed that the seized equipment had no physical connection to the plant's local computer network, so reports in the media about a leak of information regarding the physical protection of the nuclear power plant are unfounded."

The would-be crypto millionaire did not escape without punishment however. 

Because his "private computer devices" consumed company electricity on work time, he was demoted and will be asked to pay back "the amount of material losses caused by electricity consumption for personal non-official needs."

Details of the court case may be released following the trial.

Last year Russian nuclear engineers were arrested after using a supercomputer at a sensitive nuclear site for Bitcoin mining. 

In February 2018 SBU officers confiscated a huge stash of computers being used to mine bitcoin at a semiconductor plant in Kiev. They said the proceeds were being used to fund Russian-backed separatists fighting in the east of the country. 

In 2017, kidnappers seized an employee of a UK-linked crypto-currency firm in Kiev and only released him when paid a ransom of $1 million worth of bitcoin.