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CCFE, through its operator the UK Atomic Energy Authority, is a core partner in a new £50 million programme to develop codes and algorithms for exascale computers.

Culham’s involvement in ExCALIBUR (Exascale Computing: ALgorithms & Infrastructures Benefitting UK Research) will help improve the ability to model fusion plasmas and design future reactors, and as part of the project, a UKAEA delegation hosted a workshop in Birmingham recently to bring together around 30 academics interested in getting involved in the project.

The supercomputers of the future will be capable of at least one exaflop, or a billion billion calculations per second. This is a thousand-fold increase over the first petascale computer that came into operation in 2008.

The five-year programme, led by the UK Met Office, is geared towards improving modelling and simulation capability in preparation for the first exascale supercomputers.

More than £5 million will be dedicated towards research into fusion modelling. As well as recruiting new specialists at Culham, the project will involve university experts in plasma modelling and algorithms as well as other advanced software practices suitable for optimising code for exascale machines.

Computer model of MAST Upgrade

Computer simulation of a plasma inside Culham’s MAST Upgrade tokamak

The project will concentrate on one of the key research areas for fusion; improving the way the turbulent edge of plasmas is modelled. In a similar vein, the Met Office wants to improve the forecasting of weather in terms of its accuracy but also the scope of coverage.

ExCALIBUR will see the redesign of codes and algorithms so they run efficiently with unprecedented levels of detail and accuracy on the latest supercomputing hardware.

Rob Akers, Head of Advanced Computing at UKAEA and UK lead for the fusion activities with ExCALIBUR, said: “Fusion has long been heralded an ‘exascale’ modelling problem; especially the challenge of simulating the complex phenomena that describe the turbulent transport of energy and particles throughout the plasma discharges we generate on machines like JET.

“ExCALIBUR is a very timely and incredibly exciting opportunity to ‘up our game’ as we approach ITER and to help develop the codes and workflows that will turn ITER data into priceless knowledge.”

The ExCALIBUR programme is funded via the UK Government’s Strategic Priorities Fund, and follows the UK government reaffirming its commitment to invest at least 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027.

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