Texas A&M University‘s Center for Exascale Radiation Transport (CERT) has been named as one of six centers of excellence funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) under its Predictive Science Academic Alliance Program (PSAAP-II). CERT researchers led by Texas A&M University in association with the University of Colorado will receive $10 million in funding over a five year period.
“We expect the PSAAP alliances will continue to help develop the predictive science field and the workforce of the future, wherein simulations will be pervasive and instrumental in important, high-impact decision-making processes,” says Robert Meisner, director of the NNSA Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program.
The NNSA, established by Congress in 2000, is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.
The NNSA’a Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program was established in 1995 to develop computer simulation capabilities for the purpose of analyzing and predicting the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons, and to certify their functionality. Since cessation of underground nuclear testing, NNSA has used simulation and modeling tools and capabilities developed by the ASC program to support assessment and certification as part of the agency’s lifetime extension mission for stockpiled nuclear weapons. It provides NNSA, whose national laboratories are home to a couple of the world’s fastest supercomputers: Sequoia and Cielo, with cutting-edge, high-end simulation capabilities and helps the agency meet nuclear weapons assessment and certification requirements, including: weapon codes, weapon science, computing platforms, and supporting infrastructure.
ASC simulations provide a computational surrogate for nuclear testing. The NNSA’s ability to model the extraordinary complexity of nuclear weapons systems is central to U.S. national security and essential to establishing confidence in the performance of the nation’s aging nuclear weapons stockpile. Computer simulations also provide nuclear weapons scientists and engineers with a comprehensive understanding of entire weapons lifecycles from design to safe dismantlement processes. Through close coordination with other government agencies, and participating universities, ASC tools play an important role in supporting nonproliferation efforts, emergency response, and nuclear forensics.
The CERT team includes researchers from Texas A&M University (TAMU). the University of Colorado (UC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, Canada. Texas A&M provides expertise in radiation transport theory and discretization methods, massively parallel transport solution algorithms, computer science, verification, validation, uncertainty quantification (VVUQ), and neutron experimentation, while UC contributes in the field of multigrid methods for both diffusion and transport. A TAMU release notes that diffusion is important in conjunction with transport because diffusion equations are used to precondition the transport equation in highly diffusive problems.
The release reports that CERT researchers have already computed the distribution of neutron radiation using TAMU’s massively parallel transport computer code, running it with high efficiency on 400,000 processor cores. CERT ran its code on the NNSA’s Sequoia supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which was ranked at the time as the second fastest supercomputer in the world (it’s currently dropped to third-fastest on the Top 500 list of fastest supercomputers). However, even more massive exascale computers are planned which will consist of many millions of processors and be capable of executing on the order of 1018 floating point operations per second. The fastest computers currently in existence can execute roughly 1016 floating point operations per second and use vast amounts of power.
The release notes that in order to achieve affordable operating costs, exascale computers must consume far less energy per processor than is the norm with current computers, and that computing on these exascale machines will differ substantially from what is the case with existing machines, due to this low-power imperative. For instance, data movement will be far more expensive in terms of energy consumption than floating-point operations, and erroneous computations will routinely occur during the course of a simulation. Consequently the entire concept of “cost” in the context of computational algorithms will be altered since algorithms must have the capability to detect erroneous computation and either correct it or tolerate it in some quantifiable manner.
Also, thermal radiation transport is in general much more computationally expensive than the other physics components in high-energy density laboratory physics simulations, mainly because the transport equation is seven-dimensional. Therefore it’s critical to develop efficient algorithms for radiation transport.
CERT’s Research Widely Applicable Beyond Weapons Science
CERT research is projected to contribute to general radiation transport (thermal radiation, neutrons, gamma-rays, charged-particles, etc.), qualities that play a major role in national security programs, such as
stockpile stewardship, nuclear non-proliferation, homeland security,and general radiation transport.
It also plays a major role in non-defense applications, including medical diagnostics and treatment planning, climate modeling, semiconductor design (electron-hole transport), and astrophysics.
“Our College of Engineering continues to innovate and improve on their status as one of the top programs in the country,” says John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System, “and this designation of a center of excellence by the NNSA is evidence of the momentum.”
CERT’s director and the principal investigator of the project is Professor Jim Morel of the TAMU Department of Nuclear Engineering. Co-principal investigators include: Professor Lawrence Rauchwerger of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Professors Marvin Adams, Les Braby, Ryan McClarren and Jean Ragusa, all nuclear engineering faculty members.
Co-investigators include Professors Nancy Amato from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; Derek Bingham of Simon Fraser University; Tom Manteuffel and Steve McCormick of the University of Colorado; Delia Perez-Nunez from nuclear engineering; and Tom Conroy of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES).
“I feel this recognition is indicative of the caliber, quality and value of our programs here,” says Dr. Yassin Hassan, head of Texas A&M’s Department of Nuclear Engineering. “We are fortunate to have strategic administrators, dedicated faculty, hard-working staff and extraordinary students who are committed to setting our programs apart.”
The six new NNSA funded centers of excellence announced in June will focus on the emerging fields of predictive science and extreme-scale computing, and were selected to serve as either a multidisciplinary simulation center (MSC) or as a single-discipline center (SDC). The MSCs will receive $3.2 million and the SDCs will receive $1.6 million respectively each year for five years.
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, “Center for Exascale Radiation Transport,” (SDC)
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, “The Uncertainty Quantification-Predictive Multidisciplinary Simulation Center for High Efficiency Electric Power Generation with Carbon Capture,” (MSC)
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois, “Center for Exascale Simulation of Plasma-Coupled Combustion,” (MSC)
Stanford University, Stanford, California, “Predictive Simulations of Particle-laden Turbulence in a Radiation Environment,” (MSC)
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida., “Center for Compressible Multiphase Turbulence,” (SDC)
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, “Center for Shock Wave-processing of Advanced Reactive Materials,” (SDC)
Texas A&M University
Center for Exascale Radiation Transport (CERT)
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Predictive Science Academic Alliance Program (PSAAP-II)
Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program
NNSA Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program
Texas A&M University
Center for Exascale Radiation Transport (CERT)