Los Alamos National Laboratory Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program
Ensuring the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile

Sixty megawatts of power available by 2025 for future supercomputing at LANL

Power improvements and diversification will prime LANL for advanced computing capabilities


  • FOUS Program Manager
  • Jason Hick
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Trinity installation

To support the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program in 2025 and beyond, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is preparing for 60 megawatts (MW) of power to support future generations of high performance computers used to analyze and predict the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons and certify their functionality.

This total power capability will give LANL the ability to handle larger simulations, tackle more complex calculations, and produce finer fidelity results. In short, more power means more capability to support core mission pillars.

Electrical Power Capacity Upgrade

The Electrical Power Capacity Upgrade (EPCU) project will bolster LANL supercomputing capabilities into the post-Exascale era. It will upgrade the existing transmission system to provide the capacity and reliability to meet mission needs for future electrical demands. Importantly, the EPCU will increase the power coming to the Laboratory from 116 MW to 200 MW with a stretch goal of 233 or 266 MW. Alternatives are still being assessed, but this will likely be achieved by replacing the two existing transmission lines or by adding a third transmission line to the Laboratory.

“Getting additional power to the Laboratory is just the first part,” says Grant Stewart, Utilities and Infrastructure Project Director at LANL. “We’ve also got to get that power to the individual facilities that support our mission.”

Notably, the EPCU project also includes on-site improvements for distributing power to facilities across the Laboratory to provide sufficient capacity and reliable power to key facilities such as the Strategic Computing Complex (SCC).

The SCC houses several generations of supercomputers, including Trinity, and currently depends on 40 MW of power, the maximum that the current distribution system can provide without improvements. This power runs the facility and supercomputers, as well as the computers’ cooling systems.

Additionally, LANL is exploring other improvements as it continues to build capability for future supercomputing. Electrical upgrades to the SCC or other alternatives, such as a new high performance computing facility, could reduce the cost of providing electrical capacity increases.

The EPCU’s transmission and distribution improvements will deliver the necessary 60 MW directly to the supercomputers of the future. Critical decision (CD)-1 for the project is slated for late 2019. Once approved, LANL will request funding for the project to be completed by 2024.

Sustainable approach to growth

Along with the EPCU, LANL’s Utilities and Institutional Facilities (UI) Sustainability group integrates energy and water conservation and cleaner production measures into everyday business practices at the Laboratory. They coordinate planning efforts with organizations responsible for developing major infrastructure improvements and site upgrades in an effort to help the Laboratory meet its sustainability goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing the greenhouse gases attributed to electrical power cannot be achieved through on-site generation alone, thereby requiring the import of electrical power. Contemporary electrical transmission and distribution equipment and systems will improve power quality and reliability as part of a comprehensive plan to meet the demand as the nuclear deterrent mission grows and develops.

LANL takes a unique approach in focusing on purchasing and using different types of power. Significant improvements to energy and water efficiency have already been made with efforts to increase power from natural gas, photovoltaic plants, and more environmentally friendly purchasing agreements.

Over the next decade, LANL will continue to move to a more diverse energy portfolio that includes more clean and renewable sources. Multiple energy sources will combine to provide the power required to carry out the mission, while the diversity of sources will improve the Laboratory’s energy security.

“LANL’s approach to sustainable energy growth is two-fold,” says Monica Witt with LANL’s Sustainability Program. “We’ve identified a number of energy generation sources that will support our growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but just as important is our focus on upgrading our aging infrastructure to operate an energy efficient campus.”

This comprehensive approach represents a sustainable growth plan that will support the ASC Program’s future computing needs.

Future supercomputing at LANL

Computing requirements will expand as the fidelity of simulations is increased in support of the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP). By 2021, the Trinity system will near the end of its useful lifetime and need to be replaced with the next generation system, Crossroads.

Crossroads will be the third Advanced Technology (AT) system available to the tri-lab complex (Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories). It will bring new advancements for simulations and certifications from approximately 2022 to 2026, at which time Crossroads will need to be replaced with a new advanced technology system.

The supercomputers of the future bring enormous potential. The EPCU’s improvements, combined with a more diverse energy portfolio, will ensure LANL is primed to take advantage of the advanced computing capabilities.