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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 49, August 2000

DOE Supercomputing & Test Simulation Programme

'Energy Department and Compaq announce contract for delivery of record-breaking supercomputer: major simulation milestones also announced,' US Energy Department Press Release R-00-217, August 22, 2000.

"The US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Compaq Computer Corp. today announced a nearly $200 million contract for delivery of the world's fastest computer to the department's Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The computer is part of the NNSA's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI). 'This partnership with Compaq will enable us to develop the simulation capability needed for conducting stockpile stewardship and maintaining nuclear weapons reliability,' said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. The ASCI machine, to be named 'ASCI Q,' will be a 30 teraOPS (trillion operations per second) machine with 12 trillion bytes of memory, and it is expected to be operational in early 2002. ASCI Q is the latest advancement in the NNSA's Stockpile Stewardship Program, which uses science-based methods to assess and certify the safety, security and reliability of nuclear weapons without underground nuclear testing.

'The nation's security mission historically has required the fastest computers available and now has, once again, accelerated the evolution of technical computing,' said NNSA Administrator General John A. Gordon. 'Our new partnership with Compaq will give us an exceptionally powerful system for developing the simulation capability needed for Stockpile Stewardship. The ASCI simulation milestones recently achieved also show what dramatic advances in simulation capability can be achieved by skilled and dedicated teams using terascale computers.'

'Compaq is proud to work with the US Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to support the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative,' said Michael Capellas, Compaq's President and CEO. 'This is a great example of how technology can serve national interests - in this case, a better understanding of aging nuclear weapons. It also underscores Compaq's commitment to deliver the technology and services necessary to meet the world's most advanced computing requirements.'

General Gordon also announced two recent ASCI computing milestones today:

  • The first 3-D simulation of the [secondary] explosion of a nuclear weapon…completed by LANL using supercomputing platforms at both LANL and at the department's Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). This remarkable achievement was completed eight months ahead of schedule.
  • The successful weapons effects simulation recently completed by SNL, the first-ever 3-D computer simulation of the survivability of a strategic weapon as it encounters the radiation and blast wave that would be expected as part of a nuclear exchange.
Shortly before the secondary and weapons effects mileposts were achieved, the department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) completed the first-ever 3-D simulation of a nuclear weapon primary explosion. These achievements provide new tools that are already contributing to Stockpile Stewardship. They help raise confidence that NNSA will be able to use the 30 teraOPS system and its successors effectively in meeting its mission.

Along with these computing milestones, the Compaq contract represents significant progress in the department's efforts to move stewardship of the nation's nuclear weapons from its 50-year foundation in nuclear testing to one based on science and simulation. The NNSA is developing a sequence of high-performance computers, operating systems, and software applications as a part of its Stockpile Stewardship Program, with a goal of reaching 100 teraOPS. 'Los Alamos is very excited about the new ASCI Q machine,' said LANL Director Dr. John Browne. 'ASCI Q will increase our capability to maintain and assess the safety and performance of the nuclear weapons stockpile while moving us toward new scientific frontiers in the simulation of complex systems. We are looking forward to our new partnership with Compaq.'

The 30 teraOps ASCI Q machine is fifth in the sequence of computers built toward the 100 teraOPS goal. Previous ASCI computers include: ASCI Red, a 3 teraOPS machine at Sandia built by Intel; Blue Mountain, a 3 teraOPS machine at LANL built by SGI; and Blue Pacific, a 3 teraOPS machine located at LLNL built by IBM. LLNL is also home to ASCI White, a 12 teraOPS IBM machine that will be the world's fastest, most powerful computer when installation is completed later this year.

Stockpile Stewardship's simulation needs, which led to this sequence of these ASCI machines, have reconfigured the US supercomputing landscape. Each of these five computers have in turn held the world's speed record.

Nuclear weapons have two stages: the primary, or nuclear trigger for the weapon, and the secondary, which is driven by the primary and provides most of the weapon's explosive energy.

ASCI Q will be housed in LANL's Strategic Computing Complex. This building, with a machine room floor almost as large as a football field (43,500 square feet), is large enough to house two of these machines. ASCI Q will have 11,968 processors, 12 terabytes of memory and 600 terabytes of disk storage. It will be about two and one-half times as powerful as today's most powerful supercomputer (ASCI White). It would require approximately 20,000 of today's state-of-the art PCs, which are capable of about 1.5 gigaOPS, working very closely together to match the peak performance of ASCI Q."

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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