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Computer Breaks One Petaflop Barrier

WASHINGTON, DC -U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman today announced that the new Roadrunner supercomputer is the first to achieve a petaflop of sustained performance.  Roadrunner will be used by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to perform calculations that vastly improve the ability to certify that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile is reliable without conducting underground nuclear tests.

"This enormous accomplishment is the most recent example of how the U.S. Department of Energy's world-renowned supercomputers are strengthening national security and advancing scientific discovery," said Secretary Bodman.  "Roadrunner will not only play a key role in maintaining the U.S. nuclear deterrent, it will also contribute to solving our global energy challenges, and open new windows of knowledge in the basic scientific research fields."

Roadrunner will be housed at NNSA's Los Alamos National Laboratory. The laboratory worked collaboratively with IBM, the manufacturer, for six years to deliver a novel computer architecture that can meet the nation's evolving national security needs.  The result has redefined the frontier of supercomputing, not only by crossing the one petaflop threshold, but also by introducing a new paradigm for the future.

Most nuclear weapons in the U.S. stockpile were produced anywhere from 30 to 40 years ago, and no new nuclear weapons have been produced since the end of the Cold War.  Since President George H.W. Bush ended underground nuclear testing in 1992, the U.S. has relied on science-based research and development to extend the lifetime of the current weapons in the stockpile.  NNSA's ability to model the extraordinary complexity of nuclear weapons systems is essential to maintaining confidence in the performance of the aging stockpile.

A "flop" is an acronym meaning floating-point operations per second.  One petaflop is 1,000 trillion operations per second.  To put this into perspective, if each of the 6 billion people on earth had a hand calculator and worked together on a calculation 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, it would take 46 years to do what Roadrunner would do in one day.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a separately organized 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 United States and abroad. Visit the National Nuclear Security Administration for more information.

Media contact(s):

Phil West, (202) 586-4940
Bryan Wilkes, (202) 586-7371