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NNSA Completes Major Computing Upgrade for Faster Predictions at National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center

November 27, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it recently sponsored the installation of a 336-processor computing cluster at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC). This new cluster allows consequences predictions for hazardous material releases to be completed approximately 50 times faster than with the previous cluster.

NARAC provides critical atmospheric modeling predictions and analysis to emergency managers and decision makers throughout the country. These predictions inform actions that may be warranted to protect the public and the environment in the event of a hazardous release. Potential accident scenarios include releases from nuclear power plants as well as transport and fallout from nuclear detonations or radiological dispersal devices. In 2011, NARAC was extensively utilized by the U.S. government to model releases from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

“I am very pleased to announce the completion of important hardware upgrades to the NARAC computing cluster,” said Joseph Krol, Associate Administrator for Emergency Operations. “Lessons learned from the Fukushima response highlighted the importance of providing rapid atmospheric modeling products to a variety of users, from responders in Japan, to senior level policy makers in D.C. This strategic investment will allow us to continue to address all of their needs and advance this vital national capability.”

NARAC creates maps predicting the deposition of hazardous materials using current or forecast weather conditions and complex atmospheric transport and dispersion models, and refines initial predictions using field measurement data. For example, a 3-D calculation of radioactive material transported from Japan to the U.S. that required almost three hours of computer time can now be run in less than three minutes.

Additional software modifications are planned to provide results even faster in the future.

NARAC is part of NNSA’s extensive emergency response mission. For more information see NNSA’s Emergency Response.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA 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.