The Stack Archive News Article

UK using HPC integrator for nuclear simulation

Fri 28 Apr 2017

The Atomic Weapons Establishment, the organization responsible for the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons program, has selected OCF to create a new system that can simulate nuclear detonation, rather than conducting actual detonation tests.

The high performance computing system to be designed, tested and implemented by OCF will allow the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) to maintain and support the Trident missile system across the entire lifecycle of the weapons, without the need for live nuclear testing.

The new HPC cluster will also include a separate big data storage system, both of which will be built using integrated IBM products.

The new system incorporates IBM POWER8 architecture, running IBM AIX and Red Hat Linux operating systems on IBM Power platforms. It also includes a parallel Storwize file storage system built on the IBM Spectrum Scale called Cedar 3. In testing, the Cedar 3 system is operating 10 times faster than the previous HPC system used by the AWE.

The server system and storage system both use IBM Spectrum Protect for data backup and recovery.

Since the UK joined the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1998, the AWE has had the challenge of verifying the safety of the nation’s stockpile of weaponry without conducting physical testing. To meet this challenge, Paul Tomlinson of the AWE said, “We rely on cutting-edge science and computational methodologies to verify the safety and effectiveness of the warhead stockpile without conducting live testing. The new HPC system will be vital in this ongoing research.”

Last September, the AWE decided to store data in the public cloud, a move that raised security concerns, although the AWE was quick to respond, stating that the new arrangement had been thoroughly tested against the stringent security standards of the agency.

A vote in Parliament last summer showed MP’s overwhelmingly in favor of replacing the Trident missile program altogether, although the AWE has a contract in place to provide full-cycle management of the program for the UK until 2025.


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