Defence contractor Nammo blames TikTok data centre for hampering effort to ramp up ammunition production for Ukraine
The boss of one of Europe’s largest ammunition manufacturers has expressed his frustration at TikTok, which is hampering his firm’s ability to manufacture more ammunition for Ukraine.
Morten Brandtzæg, chief executive of Nammo, told the Financial Times that a planned expansion of its largest factory in central Norway has hit a roadblock due to a lack of surplus energy, with the construction of TikTok’s new data centre using up electricity in the local area.
Data centres are notoriously power-hungry locations, and the lack of spare electricity for Nammo’s factory comes at a time when Ukraine continues to defend Bakhmut, amid rumours of a coming spring offensive helped by the arrival of new armoured fighting vehicles in the country, including the UK’s Challenger 2 main battle tank.
The Financial Times article reported that Nammo, which is co-owned by the Norwegian government and a Finnish state-controlled defence company, has been told there is no surplus energy for its Raufoss plant in central Norway as a data centre that counts the social media platform as its main customer is using up the electricity in the region.
“We are concerned because we see our future growth is challenged by the storage of cat videos,” Morten Brandtzæg, Nammo chief executive, told the Financial Times.
Nammo told the FT that demand for ammunition has surged thanks to the war in Ukraine, which is using about 6,000 rounds per day – equivalent to the annual orders from a small European country – and would like to fire 65,000 if it could.
Brandtzæg reportedly said demand for artillery rounds was more than 15 times higher than normal.
The European ammunition industry needs to invest €2bn in new factories just to keep up with the demand from Ukraine, let alone other European countries, according to the Nammo chief executive. “We see an extraordinary demand for our products which we have never seen before in our history,” he said.
TikTok is building three data centres this year with the option of adding two more by 2025 in Hamar, 25km to the east of Raufoss, Norwegian data centre provider Green Mountain said.
Asked whether it was coincidence that a Chinese-owned company was stopping a defence company’s expansion, Brandtzæg replied: “I will not rule out that it’s not by pure coincidence that this activity is close to a defence company. I can’t rule it out.”
TikTok declined to comment, the FT reported.
No surplus energy
According to the FT, Elvia is the local energy company, and it confirmed to the FT that the electricity network had no spare capacity after promising it to the data centre as it allocates it on a first come, first served basis.
“If Nammo orders capacity, depending on how much it needs, it will take time before there is available capacity as the transmission network needs to be strengthened,” Elvia reportedly said.
Nammo’s Brandtzæg told the FT that European governments needed to set priorities over which industries could receive special access to energy.
“For Europe, this is a major concern for industry: critical industry must have access to energy,” he reportedly warned. “I don’t think it’s one-off, I think it’s a trend for the future.”
The Nammo warning comes after European Union leaders announced a program to reimburse countries offering artillery ammunition to Ukraine from a 1bn euro fund, while spending an additional 1bn euros on increasing ammunitions manufacturing capacity across the bloc.