Led by a number of scientific breakthroughs and operational milestones at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT-Battelle has again earned high performance ratings from the Department of Energy.

The annual DOE "report card" graded UT-Battelle's management performance with "A-" scores in all eight evaluation categories.  The report covers UT-Battelle's performance from October 2008 through September 2009.  Last year's scores contained seven "A-'s" and one "B+."

The 2009 assessment was based on three key measures related to ORNL's scientific research programs and five criteria that rate efficiency of the lab's operations.  In a letter to ORNL Director and UT-Battelle CEO Thom Mason, the DOE's Oak Ridge Operations Manager Gerald Boyd said, "You and your staff are to be congratulated for achieving a high level of performance in the management and operation of ORNL."

Lab officials said UT-Battelle takes pride in combining the highest levels of science with good management.  "Every day for nearly ten years, our goal has been to deliver science that will make a lasting difference in people's lives," Mason said. "These high marks are evidence of DOE's confidence that our staff are achieving that goal."

UT-Battelle's management contract fee awarded is based on scores from the DOE performance rating.  UT-Battelle's total fee for operating ORNL in fiscal year 2009 is $10,058,000, or 94 percent of the maximum fee.

A number of ORNL achievements in 2009 contributed to the laboratory's high performance scores.  Included among the laboratory's science highlights in 2009:

. ORNL researchers won eight prestigious R&D 100 awards, given to discoveries with high potential for commercial application.
. Scientists developed stainless steels that have an increased upper-temperature corrosion limit up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit higher than conventional stainless steels.
. Researchers in the BioEnergy Sciences Center, created in 2007 to accelerate basic research toward the development of cellulosic ethanol as a cost-effective alternative fuel, produced 80 science publications and 16 invention disclosures.
. Materials scientists completed successful tests of a new generation of High Temperature Superconducting cable that can transmit more power in less space.
. Researchers in ORNL's nuclear energy program fabricated a coated particle fuel that set a world record for advanced high temperature gas-cooled reactor fuel.

Operational high points at the lab over the past year include:

. Delivery on time and budget of the Department of Energy's Leadership Class Facility for high-performance computing, featuring Jaguar, the world's most powerful computer capable of 1,700 trillion calculations per second.
. The Spallation Neutron Source, already the world's most powerful facility for pulsed neutron scattering science, in September became the first pulsed spallation neutron source to break the one-megawatt power barrier.
. Managing the U.S. role in the ITER project and working with the project's international members.
. Breaking ground in May on a $95 million Chemical and Materials Sciences facility, the Department of Energy's first Science Laboratories Infrastructure construction project supported by funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
. Energy efficiency improvements expected to reduce energy consumption by 50 percent, water usage by 23 percent, and fossil fuel use by more than 80 percent.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy Office of Science.

The following is the text of a message Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason sent to ORNL staff Tuesday regarding the Department of Energy's renewal of UT-Battelle's contract to manage the laboratory.

Director's Message, Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This morning we received news from Energy Secretary Steven Chu that the Department of Energy has awarded a five-year extension of UT-Battelle's contract to manage Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  The Secretary, who was joined by Governor Phil Bredesen and Representatives Zach Wamp and Lincoln Davis, announced the news before several hundred staff gathered in the ORNL Conference Center.

First of all, I am grateful to Secretary Chu and the Department of Energy for their confidence in UT-Battelle's leadership during one of the most exciting periods in the Laboratory's history.  I am also grateful to the University of Tennessee and to Battelle, who together make up one of the most successful partnerships in the national laboratory system.  Both UT and Battelle contributed in unique ways to the accomplishments that marked our first ten years at ORNL.

Most of all, I am grateful to the extraordinary staff at ORNL who in the end were responsible for delivering DOE's science mission. Since more than one-half of the staff currently at ORNL were not here ten years ago, it may be hard for many of you to imagine how far we have come since that first day in April 2000.  The following are just a handful of examples.

-What we know today as the "Quad" was a massive parking lot, with a chain link fence surrounding an infrastructure that was old, unattractive and expensive to maintain.  Working with the support of DOE and the state of Tennessee, UT-Battelle undertook a $350 million plan to transform ORNL from one of the oldest labs into the most modern in the DOE system.

-Ten years ago the SNS had just broken ground, with many wondering if we were capable of delivering a $1.4 billion project.  Our computational program was housed in cramped and outdated facilities, and was not listed among the top 100 computers in the world.  We not only delivered the SNS on time, scope and budget, we also developed a program of high-performance computing that today boasts two of the world's top three machines located in a state-of-the-art facility.

-In April 2000 climate and bioenergy were small parts of the lab agenda.  By leveraging our partnership with UT and the state of Tennessee, ORNL is today among the national leaders in these two emerging fields of research.

-In April 2000, our rate of accidents was high, and our rate of growth was low.  Through the great work of our staff, we now have a safety record among DOE's best, a research portfolio that has tripled our annual budget to more than $1.65 billion, and a staff that has grown by nearly a thousand.

As proud as I am about our success over the past ten years, I am even more excited about the potential that lies ahead for UT-Battelle and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Our partnership with the University of Tennessee and the state continues to mature, as evidenced by the new graduate program in energy sciences established by the state legislature in January.  The next decade will witness more collaborative research with UT faculty and greater numbers of UT graduate students taking advantage of the facilities at ORNL. Likewise, we are part of a Battelle family of labs that offers an increasing range of opportunities for collaboration and growth with an emphasis on moving our science and technology into the marketplace.

In some respects, we have set a new bar of performance.  The challenge to UT-Battelle, and to each of us who work at ORNL, is to meet this higher standard in the delivery of our scientific mission, the operation of our Laboratory, and our leadership among the local community.

Again, I want to thank the Department of Energy for providing us the chance to join in solving some of the most important scientific challenges of our time.  Most of all, I want to thank the staff of ORNL, who have made our Laboratory one of the world's great centers for scientific discovery.

Thom

Ever wanted to see a nuclear reactor core in action?  A new computer algorithm developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory allows scientists to view nuclear fission in much finer detail than ever before.

Development of the UNIC code is funded principally by DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy through the Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation (NEAMS) program.

A team of nuclear engineers and computer scientists at Argonne National Laboratory are developing the neutron transport code UNIC, which enables researchers for the first time to obtain a highly detailed description of a nuclear reactor core.

The code could prove crucial in the development of nuclear reactors that are safe, affordable and environmentally friendly. To model the complex geometry of a reactor core requires billions of spatial elements, hundreds of angles and thousands of energy groups—all of which lead to problem sizes with quadrillions of possible solutions.

Such calculations exhaust computer memory of the largest machines, and therefore reactor modeling codes typically rely on various approximations. But approximations limit the predictive capability of computer simulations and leave considerable uncertainty in crucial reactor design and operational parameters.

“The UNIC code is intended to reduce the uncertainties and biases in reactor design calculations by progressively replacing existing multilevel averaging techniques with more direct solution methods based on explicit reactor geometries,” said Andrew Siegel, a computational scientist at Argonne and leader of Argonne’s reactor simulation group.An elevation plot of the highest energy neutron flux distributions from an axial slice of the reactor is shown superimposed over the same slice of the underlying geometry. This figure shows the rapid spatial variation in the high energy neutron distribution between within each plate along with the more slowly varying, global distribution. The figure is significant since UNIC allows researchers to capture both of these effects simultaneously.

UNIC has run successfully at DOE leadership computing facilities, home to some of the world’s fastest supercomputers, including the energy-efficient IBM Blue Gene/P at Argonne and the Cray XT5 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Although still under development, the code has already produced new scientific results.

In particular, the Argonne team has carried out highly detailed simulations of the Zero Power Reactor experiments on up to 163,840 processor cores of the Blue Gene/P and 222,912 processor cores of the Cray XT5, as well as on 294,912 processor cores of a Blue Gene/P at the Jülich Supercomputing Center in Germany. With UNIC, the researchers have successfully represented the details of the full reactor geometry for the first time and have been able to compare the results directly with the experimental data.

Argonne’s UNIC code provides a powerful new tool for designers of safe, environmentally friendly nuclear reactors – a key component of our nation’s current and future energy needs. By integrating innovative design features with state-of-the-art numerical solvers, UNIC allows researchers not only to better understand the behavior of existing reactor systems but also to predict the behavior of many of the newly proposed systems having untested design characteristics.

Development of the UNIC code is funded principally by DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy through the Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation (NEAMS) program. The Argonne UNIC project is a key part of the NEAMS efforts to replace the traditional “test-based” approach to nuclear systems design with a new “science-based” approach in which advanced modeling and simulation play a dominant role.

A video of a more detailed simulation of the Zero Power Reactor experiment is available here

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, $10 million to develop a computer system that will interpret the massive amounts of data created by the current generation of high-performance computers in the agency's national computer grid.
 
Sean Ahern, a computer scientist with UT Knoxville's College of Engineering and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will create and manage the Center for Remote Data Analysis and Visualization, which will store and examine data generated by computer simulations like those used for weather and climate, large experimental facilities like the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), and widely distributed arrays of sensors.
 
"Next-generation computing is now this-generation computing," Ahern said. "What's lacking are the tools capable of turning supercomputer data into scientific understanding. This project should provide those critical capabilities."
 
Ahern and colleagues at UT's National Institute for Computational Science will develop Nautilus, a shared-memory computer system that will have the capability to store vast amounts of data, all of which can be accessed by each of its 1,024 core processors. Nautilus will be one of the largest shared-memory computers in the world, Ahern said. It will be located alongside UT's other supercomputer, Kraken, which is the world's most powerful academic supercomputer.
 
Nautilus will be used for three major tasks: visualizing data results from computer simulations with many complex variables, such as weather or climate modeling; analyzing large amounts of data coming from experimental facilities like the SNS; and aggregating and interpreting input from a large number of sensors distributed over a wide geographic region. The computer also will have the capability to study large bodies of text and aggregations of documents.
 
"Large supercomputers like Kraken working on climate simulation will run for a week and dump 100 terabytes of data into thousands of files. You can't immediately tell what's in there," Ahern said. "This computer will help scientists turn that data into knowledge."
 
Nautilus will be part of the TeraGrid XD, the next phase of the NSF's high-performance network that provides American researchers and educators with the ability to work with extremely large amounts of data.
 
Like Kraken, Nautilus will be part of UT's Joint Institute for Computational Sciences on the ORNL campus.
 
The new machine, manufactured by high-performance computing specialist SGI, will employ the company's new shared-memory processing architecture. It will have four terabytes of shared memory and 16 graphics processing units. The system will be complemented with a one-petabyte file system.
 
Through Ahern and co-principal investigator Jian Huang, UT Knoxville is the lead institution on the project. ORNL will provide statistical analysis support, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will provide remote visualization expertise, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois will deploy portal and dashboard systems, and the University of Wisconsin will provide automation and workflow services. Huang is on the faculty of UT Knoxville's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
 
Nautilus will be joined by another NSF facility at the University of Texas that will use another data-access technique for analysis. The NSF funded both projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
 
"For many types of research, visualization provides the only means of extracting the information to understand complex scientific data," said Barry Schneider, NSF program manager for the project. "The two awards, one to the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the other to NICS at the University of Tennessee, will be deploying new and complementary computational platforms to address these challenges."

Advanced supercomputer simulations could be a big hit for truckers and the people who design guardrails, protective barriers and roadway signs. Srdjan Simunovic of Oak Ridge National Laboratory is part of a team conducting a study aimed at gaining a better understanding of crash performance of these safety structures.

"Very limited computational simulation work has been conducted on crash performance of barriers when impacted by medium- and heavy-duty trucks because of the computational cost and complexity of full-scale truck models," Simunovic said.

The design and engineering of these structures strongly influence the injury-causing g-forces experienced by vehicle occupants and whether the trucks are redirected back into traffic, causing additional hazards.

Partners in the study, funded by the National Transportation Research Center Inc., are Battelle Memorial Institute and the University of Tennessee.

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