Energy Secretary gets close-up look at cutting-edge reactor simulation hub

OLCF Project Director Buddy Bland, far right, discusses the Jaguar upgrade with U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

United States Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently made a quick visit to ORNL, where he got a briefing on advanced computer simulations of nuclear energy and even took a turn experiencing the 3D environment of a virtual reactor’s nuclear core. Chu’s stop at ORNL was part of a daylong trip to underscore the Obama administration’s support of nuclear energy.

While at the lab, Chu met with scientific leaders of the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL). CASL is one of the Department of Energy-sponsored Energy Innovation Hubs that are designed to produce revolutionary results in a relatively short time. The team uses some of the world’s most powerful computers — including the Cray Jaguar system at ORNL — to drive advanced simulations and help address issues in the nuclear industry, such as how to get more power output from reactors, extend their life, and reduce the amount of waste.

While at ORNL, the OLCF’s Project Director Buddy Bland had an opportunity to brief Secretary Chu on the progress being made on Jaguar’s upgrade to Titan, the OLCF’s next flagship system slated for 2013. Titan is being fitted with graphics processing units (GPUs) to complement its conventional CPUs. Because GPUs are good at certain types of calculations, their addition will greatly boost Titan’s computing power, giving it a peak performance of somewhere between 10-20 petaflops, more than ten times Jaguar’s current peak speed.