Fast computing ranks high on Energy's priority list

A proposal for a new unclassified supercomputing project ranks second out of 28 research projects the Energy Department has prioritized for the next two decades.

The UltraScale Scientific Computing Capability, as proposed today by Energy secretary Spencer Abraham, aims to give back the lead in high-performance computing to the United States.

Federally owned computers had been ranked as the world's fastest until two years ago when Japan introduced the Earth Simulator, which has a theoretical peak speed three times that of any U.S. system.

In announcing the 20-year research priority list, Abraham said, 'We believe this list of 28 facilities outlines to an important extent the future of science in America'and indeed the world.'

Abraham made no mention of the funding that the projects will require, but he said that the Energy plan would provide guidance to Congress and the White House for future spending.

Topping the Energy Department's priority list is U.S. participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor project, which seeks to build a self-sustaining controlled hydrogen fusion reaction. The United States and several other countries that have committed to ITER are negotiating the location of a test facility.

Although cheap electricity from hydrogen fusion has been an elusive dream for the past half century, recent basic research and computer models indicate that fusion could start supplying power in 35 years, a senior Energy official said.

Two other IT-related projects were tied for seventh place on Energy's list of 28 priorities. Abraham called for a substantial enhancement to the high-speed Energy Sciences Network and an upgrade to the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in Berkeley, Calif.

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