Environment News Service

AmeriScan: February 7, 2000

COMPUTER SIMULATION COULD REPLACE NUCLEAR TESTING

WASHINGTON, DC, February 7, 2000 (ENS) - The Department of Energy's (DOE) Stockpile Stewardship Program has completed the first ever three-dimensional (3-D) simulation of a nuclear weapon "primary" explosion. Modern nuclear weapons consist of two main components: the "primary," or trigger, and the "secondary," which produces most of the energy of a nuclear weapon. Demonstrating the ability to compute and analyze what happens to each of these components is a critical step in simulating an entire nuclear weapon's explosion in three dimensions. "This three-dimensional simulation is a key advance in our science based work to secure the safety and reliability of America's nuclear deterrent without underground testing," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. "The same advances in computing that make this possible will also allow for important advances infields ranging from medical and pharmaceutical research to aerospace, combustion and global climate modeling."

The simulation, which ran on the IBM Blue Pacific supercomputer at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, required about 300,000 megabytes of random-access memory (RAM). For comparison, a conventional desktop computer is equipped with just a few hundred megabytes of RAM. Even with the supercomputer, calculations ran for more than 20 days. A desktop would have taken 30 years to accomplish the same task. The computer systems and architecture did not exist five years ago. They are being developed through partnerships between DOE and U.S. computer industry innovators to help the agency maintain the nationís nuclear weapons stockpile without underground testing.

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