More supercomputer power for US lab

19 May 2011

Research into nuclear and energy-related issues at the USA's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has taken a step forward with the installation of a new 12,512-processor supercomputer.  


The system, known as Fission, is six times more powerful than its predecessor, Icestorm. The Appro Xtreme-X supercomputer consists of 14 racks with a total of 12,512 cores based on AMD Opteron processors. It has already achieved a peak speed of 91 teraflops, meaning it can perform 91 trillion floating point calculations per second. According to Appro, Fission is equivalent in size and speed to systems ranked in the world's top 100 supercomputers in the November 2010 list issued by independent organisation Top500.

Eric Whiting, interim director of INL's Center for Advanced Modeling and Simulation, described Fission as a "very capable supercomputer that enables increased fidelity in modelling and simulation of complex systems and processes."

Supercomputers are a vital tool used in nuclear science by universities and national laboratories. An INL team is already using Fission to simulate what happens to the metal cladding that surrounds uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor. The supercomputer helped the team to create a 3-D fuel rod model that simulates how heat, pressure and other conditions affect cladding during its first 18 months in a reactor. "Fission is enabling us to simulate things we couldn't before," said computational applied mathematician Derek Gaston, who worked on the fuel rod project. "With Fission, we have been able to simulate a real fuel rod in a real reactor. We haven't had the computing power to do that until now."

The world's fastest supercomputer, according to the most recent Top500 listing, is the 2.57 petaflops per second Tianhe-1A system at China's National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin. This has been applied to over 100 scientific projects, including research to optimize simulation code for magnetic confinement in fusion.


Second place is taken by the Jaguar system at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, which has achieved 1.75 petaflops per second. When Japan Atomic Energy Agency's 186.1 teraflops per second supercomputer was launched in March 2010 it could boast of being the 19th fastest supercomputer in the world and the fastest dedicated solely to civil nuclear research. It now ranks 33rd in the most recent listing.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News