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World's mightiest supercomputer to design new nuke plants

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Nuclear supercomputer boffins in the States say they are unleashing the mighty power of the "Jaguar" - number one arse-kickingest computer in the world - to design the next generation of nuclear reactors, including the ITER fusion project.

John Wagner, Technical Integration Manager for Nuclear Modelling at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, says that the power of the Jaguar allows his team to tackle "problems that were previously unthinkable or impractical in terms of the computing power required". The mighty machine edged out the rival "Roadrunner" in the most recent Top500 rankings, cranking a blistering 1.75 petaflops.

"We're now simulating entire nuclear facilities, such as a nuclear power reactor facility with its auxiliary buildings and the ITER fusion reactor, with much greater accuracy than any other organization that we're aware of," boasts Wagner.

The ITER reactor project, it is hoped among nuke boffins, may finally unlock the secrets of controlled nuclear fusion and so end the energy problems of the human race forever. Nuclear fusion is understandably often referred to as the "holy grail" of modern science and technology.

Doing sims on the 224,000-core Jaguar is no simple matter, though. Wagner's crew have been forced to develop new software for the job, dubbed Denovo (roughly "from scratch").

"At first we tried adapting older software to the task, but we abandoned that idea pretty quickly," says nuke boffin and Denovo creator Tom Evans.

"Software for modeling radiation transport has been around for a long time," he adds, "but it hadn't been adapted to build on developments that have revolutionized computational science. There's no special transformational technology in this software; but it's designed specifically to take advantage of the massive computational and memory capabilities of the world's fastest computers."

Wagner and Evans are chuffed to announce that they have been awarded eight million processor hours on Jaguar for the purpose of running Denovo to develop a "uniquely detailed simulation of the power distribution inside a nuclear reactor core". This is expected to cut years off the process of designing new and better reactors.

The announcement from Oak Ridge lab is here. ®

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