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LANL accepts bids for new supercomputer

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By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos National Laboratory has put out a request for proposals for a new supercomputer, this one dubbed “Crossroads.” Like the supercomputer the lab has now, “Trinity,” Crossroads will be put to work helping to maintain the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

Supercomputers employed by the Department of Energy often are used to test, through computer simulation, the components of nuclear weapons in the stockpile as well as the weapon’s power and capabilities.

“High performance computing across the NNSA complex is used to assure the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent; to analyze and predict the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons and certify their functionality,” a statement released by the lab said.

Once built and operational, Crossroads’ increased computational power will be able to render simulations and modeling more accurately than ever before. One of its features will be to run high-resolution 3D simulations that will be able to give scientists  more accurate test results.

Lab officials familiar with the project said the Crossroads computer will focus on three areas, application performance, work flow and application development.  The supercomputer will be powerful enough to optimize the complete weapons simulation lifecycle, not just particular facets of that lifecycle, such as system cost or power usage.

“The Crossroads system will support the highest fidelity of next-generation weapons simulations and will meet NNSA Defense Programs’ mission needs. It will also allow applications to explore and exploit upcoming technologies,” a statement released by the lab said.

Bob Webster, the lab’s deputy weapons programs director, stressed the importance of computer simulation and modeling when it comes to maintaining the health and security of the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

“Since the era of the Manhattan project, it has been essential to underwrite the performance of nuclear weapons using the most powerful computing available. This is particularly true since the cessation of testing,” Webster said.

The lab is currently home to Trinity, a supercomputer that became fully operational in 2017. Crossroads will eventually replace Trinity. Crossroads, when it’s built, will be housed at the lab’s Strategic Housing Complex.

Crossroads is due to go online by 2021. During its initial start up phase, the computer will be used to help in other areas before it begins its life securing and testing the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

“Traditionally, new computing platforms go through an initial period of time doing unclassified computing to assess the functionality of the system,” lab officials said. “During this period a wide variety of research is possible from computational biology to astrophysics.”

Responses to the lab’s requests for proposal are due by March 18.