CASL Wraps up 10 Years of Solving Nuclear Problems — and Hands Toolbox to Industry

By Kristi L Bumpus

August 17, 2020

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) established the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL), at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). This story explores how CASL, DOE’s first Energy Innovation Hub, rapidly developed high performance computing tools that changed the ways an industry thinks about modeling and simulation.

Ten years ago, the Department of Energy put out a call for innovators to change the world of nuclear energy.

What DOE hoped to accomplish with the then-new Energy Innovation Hubs concept was “translational research” — research and development on an accelerated timeline that could solve the problems facing the nuclear industry, not only extending the life of the current reactor fleet, but also paving the way for more efficient next-generation reactors.

Those solutions would then go straight to industry as quickly as possible. DOE was willing to put $125 million toward a “hub” for at least five years to see that happen.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory-based Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors — a national collaboration of top scientists and engineers from government, academia and industry who had the privilege of making up DOE’s first Energy Innovation Hub — showed enough success that DOE renewed its funding for a second five-year period.

The consortium wrapped in June, having solved some of the biggest nuclear reactor challenges, and is handing industry a comprehensive software suite with the tools and support to use it immediately and on an ongoing basis.

“We’ve come through on the bet,” said former CASL director Doug Kothe.

Involving industry

Industry buy-in was a critical element of the hub’s success, said original CASL member John Turner. The Tennessee Valley Authority, Westinghouse and the Electric Power Research Institute were partners from the start.

“That was a key part of the project, having industry involved early on, but we didn’t have to convince them how valuable this was,” Turner said. “They were coming to the table saying, ‘We need help here.’ Industry was recognizing the gaps themselves, and they respected our expertise and were motivated to collaborate with us.”

Other partners included Idaho, Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of Michigan and North Carolina State University.

“It was an ambitious undertaking,” said Dave Kropaczek, a chief scientist with CASL who became its director in 2018 and was an early member of the industry council. “It had a huge scope. I was skeptical but curious.”

With hundreds of scientists and engineers at the top of their field working together, the consortium set a goal to develop broad capabilities to:

  • Accurately predict and reduce instances of undesirable boiling conditions, thereby increasing fuel performance and core power. An example was departure from nucleate boiling, the point at which a steam blanket forms on the fuel rod surface, insulating it and reducing heat transfer rapidly.
  • Predict and manage “crud,” which are deposits that form on fuel rods that can shorten their efficiency and lifespan, increasing the cost of power.
  • Predict fuel pellet and cladding integrity during normal operation and postulated accident scenarios, giving power plant operators greater flexibility in when and how much power is produced.
  • Predict how neutrons interact with large reactor components to provide a guide for which materials are likely to degrade on what timeline, as well as to help reactor owners decide when to replace parts for improved performance.
VERA’s tools allow a virtual window inside the reactor core, down to a molecular level. Image courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy.

How would they do that? By developing an exceedingly accurate virtual reactor.

‘The modern era of simulation’

The field of modeling and simulation wasn’t new to the industry; it had been part of nuclear engineering for decades.

The challenge, though, was bridging the gap between its current capabilities and its possibilities, Turner said.

“At the time, industry had become more followers than leaders in simulation; they were used to lower-fidelity, lower-confidence simulations,” Kothe said. “We opened their eyes to the possibilities and brought them into the modern era of simulation. We demystified the simulation technology. It wasn’t a black box; they were part of the development, and they could roll up their sleeves and go in there and see that it’s not a bunch of smoke and mirrors. They saw that this tool was for everyone and that the staffers involved were talented and committed and listened to them.”

The stakes were high. Nuclear produces roughly 20 percent of the total U.S. power supply but more than half its carbon-free electricity. While the country’s demand for power is expected to increase by at least 25 percent by 2030, the average age of the U.S. nuclear fleet is close to 40. As of last year, 17 reactors at 16 sites were in various stages of decommissioning, yet only one new reactor has gone online in the U.S. this century. Extending the life and efficiency of these older, existing reactors meant buying time and power until the next generation of reactors is developed and put into service.

Gil Weigand, then CASL’s startup manager, “pushed us very hard to release a Version 1 software package after only one year,” Turner said. “If we looked back, we’d probably be pretty underwhelmed with what that was. But it was still a big achievement to rise to Gil’s challenge and release a software package after only a year.”

Four years after that first release when CASL’s Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications, or VERA, accurately simulated the 2016 startup of TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 — the only reactor to go online in the U.S. in the 21st century — it became obvious that the project would have a permanent impact on the industry.

“Early in CASL, everyone involved established a strong vision for the program with aggressive challenge problems that drove development,” said Jess Gehin, who was initially a focus area leader and became CASL’s second director. “Hard decisions were made on research directions that resulted in delivery of game-changing capabilities that showed that modern modeling and simulation capabilities can deliver significant predictive and application improvements over the engineering tools in use at the time.”

To read the full article, visit https://www.ornl.gov/news/casl-wraps-10-years-solving-nuclear-problems-and-hands-toolbox-industry

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!

Why HPC Storage Matters More Now Than Ever: Analyst Q&A

September 17, 2021

With soaring data volumes and insatiable computing driving nearly every facet of economic, social and scientific progress, data storage is seizing the spotlight. Hyperion Research analyst and noted storage expert Mark No Read more…

GigaIO Gets $14.7M in Series B Funding to Expand Its Composable Fabric Technology to Customers

September 16, 2021

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, GigaIO introduced its Universal Composable Fabric technology, which allows enterprises to bring together any HPC and AI resources and integrate them with networking, Read more…

What’s New in HPC Research: Solar Power, ExaWorks, Optane & More

September 16, 2021

In this regular feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

Cerebras Brings Its Wafer-Scale Engine AI System to the Cloud

September 16, 2021

Five months ago, when Cerebras Systems debuted its second-generation wafer-scale silicon system (CS-2), co-founder and CEO Andrew Feldman hinted of the company’s coming cloud plans, and now those plans have come to fruition. Today, Cerebras and Cirrascale Cloud Services are launching... Read more…

AI Hardware Summit: Panel on Memory Looks Forward

September 15, 2021

What will system memory look like in five years? Good question. While Monday's panel, Designing AI Super-Chips at the Speed of Memory, at the AI Hardware Summit, tackled several topics, the panelists also took a brief glimpse into the future. Unlike compute, storage and networking, which... Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Supporting Climate Model Simulations to Accelerate Climate Science

The Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI), AWS is donating cloud resources, technical support, and access to scalable infrastructure and fast networking providing high performance computing (HPC) solutions to support simulations of near-term climate using the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Community Earth System Model Version 2 (CESM2) and its Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM). Read more…

ECMWF Opens Bologna Datacenter in Preparation for Atos Supercomputer

September 14, 2021

In January 2020, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) – a juggernaut in the weather forecasting scene – signed a four-year, $89-million contract with European tech firm Atos to quintuple its supercomputing capacity. With the deal approaching the two-year mark, ECMWF... Read more…

Why HPC Storage Matters More Now Than Ever: Analyst Q&A

September 17, 2021

With soaring data volumes and insatiable computing driving nearly every facet of economic, social and scientific progress, data storage is seizing the spotlight Read more…

Cerebras Brings Its Wafer-Scale Engine AI System to the Cloud

September 16, 2021

Five months ago, when Cerebras Systems debuted its second-generation wafer-scale silicon system (CS-2), co-founder and CEO Andrew Feldman hinted of the company’s coming cloud plans, and now those plans have come to fruition. Today, Cerebras and Cirrascale Cloud Services are launching... Read more…

AI Hardware Summit: Panel on Memory Looks Forward

September 15, 2021

What will system memory look like in five years? Good question. While Monday's panel, Designing AI Super-Chips at the Speed of Memory, at the AI Hardware Summit, tackled several topics, the panelists also took a brief glimpse into the future. Unlike compute, storage and networking, which... Read more…

ECMWF Opens Bologna Datacenter in Preparation for Atos Supercomputer

September 14, 2021

In January 2020, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) – a juggernaut in the weather forecasting scene – signed a four-year, $89-million contract with European tech firm Atos to quintuple its supercomputing capacity. With the deal approaching the two-year mark, ECMWF... Read more…

Quantum Computer Market Headed to $830M in 2024

September 13, 2021

What is one to make of the quantum computing market? Energized (lots of funding) but still chaotic and advancing in unpredictable ways (e.g. competing qubit tec Read more…

Amazon, NCAR, SilverLining Team for Unprecedented Cloud Climate Simulations

September 10, 2021

Earth’s climate is, to put it mildly, not in a good place. In the wake of a damning report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientis Read more…

After Roadblocks and Renewals, EuroHPC Targets a Bigger, Quantum Future

September 9, 2021

The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking (JU) was formalized in 2018, beginning a new era of European supercomputing that began to bear fruit this year with the launch of several of the first EuroHPC systems. The undertaking, however, has not been without its speed bumps, and the Union faces an uphill... Read more…

How Argonne Is Preparing for Exascale in 2022

September 8, 2021

Additional details came to light on Argonne National Laboratory’s preparation for the 2022 Aurora exascale-class supercomputer, during the HPC User Forum, held virtually this week on account of pandemic. Exascale Computing Project director Doug Kothe reviewed some of the 'early exascale hardware' at Argonne, Oak Ridge and NERSC (Perlmutter), while Ti Leggett, Deputy Project Director & Deputy Director... Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer called Dojo to process truly vast amounts of video data. It’s a beast! … A truly useful exaflop at de facto FP32.” Read more…

Berkeley Lab Debuts Perlmutter, World’s Fastest AI Supercomputer

May 27, 2021

A ribbon-cutting ceremony held virtually at Berkeley Lab's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) today marked the official launch of Perlmutter – aka NERSC-9 – the GPU-accelerated supercomputer built by HPE in partnership with Nvidia and AMD. Read more…

Esperanto, Silicon in Hand, Champions the Efficiency of Its 1,092-Core RISC-V Chip

August 27, 2021

Esperanto Technologies made waves last December when it announced ET-SoC-1, a new RISC-V-based chip aimed at machine learning that packed nearly 1,100 cores onto a package small enough to fit six times over on a single PCIe card. Now, Esperanto is back, silicon in-hand and taking aim... Read more…

Enter Dojo: Tesla Reveals Design for Modular Supercomputer & D1 Chip

August 20, 2021

Two months ago, Tesla revealed a massive GPU cluster that it said was “roughly the number five supercomputer in the world,” and which was just a precursor to Tesla’s real supercomputing moonshot: the long-rumored, little-detailed Dojo system. “We’ve been scaling our neural network training compute dramatically over the last few years,” said Milan Kovac, Tesla’s director of autopilot engineering. Read more…

CentOS Replacement Rocky Linux Is Now in GA and Under Independent Control

June 21, 2021

The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) is announcing the general availability of Rocky Linux, release 8.4, designed as a drop-in replacement for the soon-to-be discontinued CentOS. The GA release is launching six-and-a-half months after Red Hat deprecated its support for the widely popular, free CentOS server operating system. The Rocky Linux development effort... Read more…

Google Launches TPU v4 AI Chips

May 20, 2021

Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke for only one minute and 42 seconds about the company’s latest TPU v4 Tensor Processing Units during his keynote at the Google I Read more…

Intel Completes LLVM Adoption; Will End Updates to Classic C/C++ Compilers in Future

August 10, 2021

Intel reported in a blog this week that its adoption of the open source LLVM architecture for Intel’s C/C++ compiler is complete. The transition is part of In Read more…

AMD-Xilinx Deal Gains UK, EU Approvals — China’s Decision Still Pending

July 1, 2021

AMD’s planned acquisition of FPGA maker Xilinx is now in the hands of Chinese regulators after needed antitrust approvals for the $35 billion deal were receiv Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Hot Chips: Here Come the DPUs and IPUs from Arm, Nvidia and Intel

August 25, 2021

The emergence of data processing units (DPU) and infrastructure processing units (IPU) as potentially important pieces in cloud and datacenter architectures was Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

HPE Wins $2B GreenLake HPC-as-a-Service Deal with NSA

September 1, 2021

In the heated, oft-contentious, government IT space, HPE has won a massive $2 billion contract to provide HPC and AI services to the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). Following on the heels of the now-canceled $10 billion JEDI contract (reissued as JWCC) and a $10 billion... Read more…

Quantum Roundup: IBM, Rigetti, Phasecraft, Oxford QC, China, and More

July 13, 2021

IBM yesterday announced a proof for a quantum ML algorithm. A week ago, it unveiled a new topology for its quantum processors. Last Friday, the Technical Univer Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

Frontier to Meet 20MW Exascale Power Target Set by DARPA in 2008

July 14, 2021

After more than a decade of planning, the United States’ first exascale computer, Frontier, is set to arrive at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year. Crossing this “1,000x” horizon required overcoming four major challenges: power demand, reliability, extreme parallelism and data movement. Read more…

Intel Unveils New Node Names; Sapphire Rapids Is Now an ‘Intel 7’ CPU

July 27, 2021

What's a preeminent chip company to do when its process node technology lags the competition by (roughly) one generation, but outmoded naming conventions make it seem like it's two nodes behind? For Intel, the response was to change how it refers to its nodes with the aim of better reflecting its positioning within the leadership semiconductor manufacturing space. Intel revealed its new node nomenclature, and... Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire