Oak Ridge Supercomputers Modeling Nuclear Future

By Nicole Hemsoth

May 9, 2011

During the annual televised “State of the Union” address at the beginning of 2011, Barak Obama sought to renew the national focus on science and technology, in part by using supercomputing capabilities to drive progress.

To highlight the role of HPC in the new generation of scientific endeavors, the President told millions of Americans about how supercomputing capabilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will lend the muscle for a Department of Energy initiative “to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities” via the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL).

This speech came well before the word “nuclear” was (yet again) thrown into the public perception tarpit by the Fukushima reactor disaster, otherwise it might be reasonable to assume that there would be more attention focused on the safety angle that complements the CASL’s nuclear efficiency and waste reduction goals. Outside of the safety side of the story, another, perhaps more specific element to his national address was missing — that the power of modeling and simulation — not just high performance computing — might lie at the heart of a new era for American innovation.

To arrive at an ambitious five-year plan to enact a number of design and operational improvements at nuclear facilities, CASL researchers are developing models that will simulate potential upgrades at a range of existing nuclear power plants across the United States that will seek to address a number of direct nuclear facility challenges as well as some pressing software challenges that lie at the heart of ultra-complex modeling at extreme scale.

Despite some of the simulation challenges that are ahead for CASL, the payoff for the DOE’s five-year, $122 million grant last May to support this and two other innovation hubs could be significant. According to the team behind the effort, “these upgrades could improve the energy output of America’s existing reactor fleet by as much as seven reactors’ worth at a fraction of the cost of building new reactors, while providing continued improvements in reliability and safety.”

Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Thom Mason, pointed to the power of new and sophisticated modeling capabilities that “will provide improved insight into the operations of reactors, helping the industry reduce capital and operating costs, minimize nuclear waste volume, safely extend the lifetime of the current nuclear fleet and develop new materials for next-generation reactors.”

The CASL has been designed with the goal of creating a user environment to allow for advanced predictive simulation via the creation of a Virtual Reactor (VR). This virtual reactor will examine key possibilities and existing realities at power plants at both the design and operational level. CASL leaders hope to “produce a multiphysics computational environment that can be used for calculations of both normal and off-normal conditions via the development of superior physical and analytics models and multiphysics integrators.”

The CASL team further claims that once the system has matured, the VR will be able to combine “advanced neutronics, T-H, structural and fuel performance modules, linked with existing systems and safety analysis simulation tools, to model nuclear power plant performance in a high performance computational environment that enables engineers to simulate physical reactors.”

Many of the codes will employ a number of pre-validated neutronics and thermal-hydraulics (T-H) codes that have been developed by a number of partners on the project, including a number of universities (University of Michigan, MIT, North Carolina State and other) as well as national laboratories (Sandia, Los Alamos, and Idaho).

During the first year CASL will be able to achieve a number of initial core simulations using coupled tools and models — a goal that they have reached for the most part already. This involves application of 3D transport with T-H feedback and CFD with neutronics to isolate core elements of the core design and configuration. In the second year the team hopes to be able to apply a full-core CFD model to calculate 3D localized flow distributions to indentify transverse flow that could result in problems with the rods.

According to a spokesperson for ORNL, making use of the Jaguar supercomputer, CASL will allow for large-scale integrated modeling that has only been possible in the last few years.” The challenge is not simply how to use these new capabilities, but how to make sure current programming and computational paradigms can maximize its use.

A document that covers the goals of CASL in more depth sheds light on some of the computational aspects of these massive-scale simulations. The authors note that “a cross-cutting issue that will impact the entire range of computational efforts over the lifetime of CASL is the dramatic shift occurring in computer architectures, with rapid increases in the number of cores in CPUs and increasing use of specialized processing units (such as GPUs) as computational accelerators. As a result, applications must be designed for multiple levels of memory hierarchy and massive thread parallelism.”

The authors of the report go on to note that while they can expect peak performance at the desktop to be in the 10 teraflop range and the performance at the leadership platform to be in the several hundred petaflop range, during the next five years, “it will be challenging for applications to achieve a significant fraction of these peak performance numbers, particularly existing applications that have not been designed to perform well on such machines.”

Another one of CASL’s stated goals has to do with the future of modeling and simulation-focused research. The team states that they hope to “promote an enhanced scientific basis and understanding by replacing empirically based design and analysis tools with predictive capabilities.” In other words, by harnessing high performance computing to demonstrate actual circumstances versus reflect the educated hopes of even the most skilled reactor engineers, we might be one step closer to fail-proof design in an area that will allow for nothing less than perfection.

CASL could have a chance to see its models and simulations leap to life over the course of the first five years of the project. Currently the Tennessee Valley Authority operates a total of six reactors that generate close to 7,000 megawatts. The agency is currently embarking on a $2.5 billion journey to create a second pressurized water reactor at one of its existing facilities. This provides a perfect opportunity for the CASL team to put their facility modeling research to work; thus they’ve started creating simulations focused on the reactor core, internals and the reactor vessel.

CASL claims that “much of the virtual reactor to be developed will be applicable to other reactor types, including boiling water reactors.” They hope that during the subsequent set of five-year objectives they will be able to expand to include structures, systems and components that are outside of the vessel as well as consider small modular reactors.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Is Data Science the Fourth Pillar of the Scientific Method?

April 18, 2019

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revived a decade-old debate last month when he said that modern data science (AI plus HPC) has become the fourth pillar of the scientific method. While some disagree with the notion that statistic Read more…

By Alex Woodie

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing the bounds of what's possible in business and science, in w Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Google Open Sources TensorFlow Version of MorphNet DL Tool

April 18, 2019

Designing optimum deep neural networks remains a non-trivial exercise. “Given the large search space of possible architectures, designing a network from scratch for your specific application can be prohibitively expens Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

powercloud_blog.jpgFor decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Bridging HPC and Cloud Native Development with Kubernetes

The HPC community has historically developed its own specialized software stack including schedulers, filesystems, developer tools, container technologies tuned for performance and large-scale on-premises deployments. Read more…

Interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer

April 18, 2019

Today, as part of our ongoing HPCwire People to Watch focus series, we are highlighting our interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer. Michela -- the General Chair of SC19 -- is an ACM Distinguished Scientist. Read more…

By HPCwire Editorial Team

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer

April 18, 2019

Today, as part of our ongoing HPCwire People to Watch focus series, we are highlighting our interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer. Michela -- the Read more…

By HPCwire Editorial Team

Intel Gold U-Series SKUs Reveal Single Socket Intentions

April 18, 2019

Intel plans to jump into the single socket market with a portion of its just announced Cascade Lake microprocessor line according to one media report. This isn Read more…

By John Russell

BSC Researchers Shrink Floating Point Formats to Accelerate Deep Neural Network Training

April 15, 2019

Sometimes calculating solutions as precisely as a computer can wastes more CPU resources than is necessary. A case in point is with deep learning. In early stag Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

Intel Extends FPGA Ecosystem with 10nm Agilex

April 11, 2019

The insatiable appetite for higher throughput and lower latency – particularly where edge analytics and AI, network functions, or for a range of datacenter ac Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Doubles Down on Medical AI

April 9, 2019

Nvidia is collaborating with medical groups to push GPU-powered AI tools into clinical settings, including radiology and drug discovery. The GPU leader said Monday it will collaborate with the American College of Radiology (ACR) to provide clinicians with its Clara AI tool kit. The partnership would allow radiologists to leverage AI techniques for diagnostic imaging using their own clinical data. Read more…

By George Leopold

Digging into MLPerf Benchmark Suite to Inform AI Infrastructure Decisions

April 9, 2019

With machine learning and deep learning storming into the datacenter, the new challenge is optimizing infrastructure choices to support diverse ML and DL workfl Read more…

By John Russell

AI and Enterprise Datacenters Boost HPC Server Revenues Past Expectations – Hyperion

April 9, 2019

Building on the big year of 2017 and spurred in part by the convergence of AI and HPC, global revenue for high performance servers jumped 15.6 percent last year Read more…

By Doug Black

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ClusterVision in Bankruptcy, Fate Uncertain

February 13, 2019

ClusterVision, European HPC specialists that have built and installed over 20 Top500-ranked systems in their nearly 17-year history, appear to be in the midst o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Reportedly in $6B Bid for Mellanox

January 30, 2019

The latest rumors and reports around an acquisition of Mellanox focus on Intel, which has reportedly offered a $6 billion bid for the high performance interconn Read more…

By Doug Black

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Looking for Light Reading? NSF-backed ‘Comic Books’ Tackle Quantum Computing

January 28, 2019

Still baffled by quantum computing? How about turning to comic books (graphic novels for the well-read among you) for some clarity and a little humor on QC. The Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep500: ETH Researchers Introduce New Deep Learning Benchmark for HPC

February 5, 2019

ETH researchers have developed a new deep learning benchmarking environment – Deep500 – they say is “the first distributed and reproducible benchmarking s Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

IBM Bets $2B Seeking 1000X AI Hardware Performance Boost

February 7, 2019

For now, AI systems are mostly machine learning-based and “narrow” – powerful as they are by today's standards, they're limited to performing a few, narro Read more…

By Doug Black

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Arm Unveils Neoverse N1 Platform with up to 128-Cores

February 20, 2019

Following on its Neoverse roadmap announcement last October, Arm today revealed its next-gen Neoverse microarchitecture with compute and throughput-optimized si Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

France to Deploy AI-Focused Supercomputer: Jean Zay

January 22, 2019

HPE announced today that it won the contract to build a supercomputer that will drive France’s AI and HPC efforts. The computer will be part of GENCI, the Fre Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Oil and Gas Supercloud Clears Out Remaining Knights Landing Inventory: All 38,000 Wafers

March 13, 2019

The McCloud HPC service being built by Australia’s DownUnder GeoSolutions (DUG) outside Houston is set to become the largest oil and gas cloud in the world th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Air Force Research Laboratory Unveils First Shared, Classified DoD HPC Capability

February 28, 2019

In a ceremony on Tuesday, the Air Force Research Laboratory unveiled four new computing clusters, providing the capability for what it is calling the first-ever Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This