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Russian Nuclear Scientist Gets $7,000 Fine for Mining Bitcoin at Work

The engineer at a top-secret nuclear lab, along with two colleagues, had accessed the plant's supercomputer to mine bitcoin.

Oct 1, 2019 at 1:05 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. UTC

One of three scientists caught illegally bitcoin mining at a Russian nuclear lab has been fined 450,000 rubles, or $7,000.

As reported in the Moscow Times Tuesday, Denis Baykov was handed the penalty by a jurisdictional city court for accessing the lab’s supercomputer to illegally mine the world’s top cryptocurrency by market valuation.

Located in Sarov, Russia, the top-secret lab was where the first Soviet nuclear bombs were manufactured in the late 1940s. It remains home to some of Russia’s most powerful computers.

The mining trio was first exposed last February and promptly handed over to the Federal Security Service.

Using the proof-of-work consensus mechanism, bitcoin harnesses miners to record transactions and secure the the blockchain with powerful energy-intensive computers. Mining power is measured in hashes per second.

According to today's report, Baykov, along with the two other lab employees, used specially designed software to mask mining on the lab's computer, which can conduct transactions up to 1,000 trillion operations per second, or one petaflop. Hashes per second do not translate into operations per second, however.

With the price of bitcoin sitting around $8,000 per coin, one of the three employee's lawyers, Alexei Kovalyov, hinted at the fine being very small compared to the probable payoff:

“I can say one thing for sure: they were not detained on the first day they began to mine.”

Court verdicts for the other two scientists have not yet been reached.

Nuclear Power Plant image via Shutterstock

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