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!

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Answered Prayers for High Frequency Traders? Latency Cut to 20 Nanoseconds

January 23, 2017

“You can buy your way out of bandwidth problems. But latency is divine.”

This sentiment, from Intel Technical Computing Group CTO Mark Seager, seems as old as the Bible, a truth universally acknowledged. Read more…

By Doug Black

CMU’s Latest “Card Shark” – Libratus – is Beating the Poker Pros (Again)

January 20, 2017

It’s starting to look like Carnegie Mellon University has a gambling problem – can’t stay away from the poker table. Read more…

By John Russell

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Enhancing Patient Care with Next-Generation Sequencing

In the ever-evolving world of life sciences, speed, accuracy, and savings are more important than ever. Today’s scientists and healthcare professionals are leveraging high-performance computing (HPC) solutions to solve the world’s greatest health problems and accelerate the diagnoses and treatment of a variety of medical conditions. Read more…

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 19, 2017)

January 19, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Women Coders from Russia, Italy, and Poland Top Study

January 17, 2017

According to a study posted on HackerRank today the best women coders as judged by performance on HackerRank challenges come from Russia, Italy, and Poland. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Answered Prayers for High Frequency Traders? Latency Cut to 20 Nanoseconds

January 23, 2017

“You can buy your way out of bandwidth problems. But latency is divine.”

This sentiment, from Intel Technical Computing Group CTO Mark Seager, seems as old as the Bible, a truth universally acknowledged. Read more…

By Doug Black

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This