Roadrunner is a supercomputer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, shown in an NNSA photo.

NNSA Supercomputers Do Double Duty

From simulating space junk to mapping the spread of pandemic influenza, the world-class supercomputers owned by the three laboratories of the National Nuclear Security Administration have helped to solve a surprising list of non-defense challenges.

The National Nuclear Security Administration unveiled a new website for its Advanced Simulation & Computing Program recently to mark Supercomputing Week 2011, with the highlights being the non-defense research its world-class supercomputers have facilitated. The machines at three NNSA national laboratories -- Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore -- have assisted in simulating space junk to help NASA protect spacecraft and have modeled the spread of pandemic influenza.

A team of computational physics and engineering experts used NNSA supercomputers in their work on space debris, which resulted in a set of tools known as the Testbed for Space Situational Awareness (TESSA) for simulating the position of objects in orbit and their detection by telescope and radar systems.

"NNSA's efforts to maintain the safety, security, and effectiveness of the nuclear stockpile without underground testing have yielded solutions to some of the most challenging issues that face our country," said Don Cook, the agency's deputy administrator for Defense Programs. "From space debris to medical work to climate change, even to understanding the damage that caused the breakup of the Space Shuttle Columbia, NNSA has been able to support many important issues that impact the nation while implementing President Obama's nuclear security agenda."

The agency reported that science-based applications ran on Roadrunner, a supercomputer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, before it was ready for use as part of the nuclear stockpile stewardship program. "One application modeled HIV proteins, which led to a better understanding of how the AIDS virus replicates itself. That project could serve as the cornerstone to developing the first viable vaccine to protect people from HIV," according to NNSA. Los Alamos also was the site where research was done to study potential pandemics, with support from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; this work was the source for a cover article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April 2006 titled "Mitigation strategies for pandemic influenza in the United States."

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories helped NASA determine why the space shuttle Columbia came apart in flight. It was supercomputer analyses and experimental studies that supported the theory that foam debris breaking off the external fuel tank during launch, striking the shuttle's wing, was the most probable cause of the wing damage that caused the breakup.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Safety Management Software - Free Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Software’s comprehensive suite of modules help organizations to record and manage incidents, inspections, hazards, behavior based safety observations, and much more. Improve safety with an easy to use tool for tracking, notifying and reporting on key safety data.

  • Create Flexible Safety Dashboards

    IndustrySafe’s Dashboard Module allows organizations allows you to easily create and view safety KPIs to help you make informed business decisions. Our best of breed default indicators can also save you valuable time and effort in monitoring safety metrics.

  • Schedule and Record Observations

    IndustrySafe's mobile app allows managers, supervisors, and employees to conduct observations on employees involved in safety critical behavior on the go, with or without an internet connection. IndustrySafe’s pre-built BBS checklists may be used as is, or can be customized to better suit the needs of your organization.

  • The 4 Stages of an Incident Investigation

    So, your workplace has just experienced an incident resulting in the injury or illness of a worker. Now what? OSHA recommends that you conduct investigations of workplace incidents using a four-step system.

  • Why Is Near Miss Reporting Important?

    A near miss is an accident that's waiting to happen. Learn how to investigate these close calls and prevent more serious incidents from occurring in the future.

  • Industry Safe
comments powered by Disqus

Free Whitepaper

Stand Your Ground: A Guide to Slip Resistance in Industrial Safety Footwear

This white paper helps to clarify this complexity, so you can better navigate the standards and better ensure the safety of your employees.

Download Now →

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - October 2019

    October 2019

    Featuring:

    • WINTER HAZARDS
      Preparing for Old Man Winter's Arrival
    • CONSTRUCTION
      Staying Safe in the Trenches
    • INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE
      Setting a Higher Standard: The Limitations of Regulatory Limits
    • ELECTRICAL SAFETY
      Five Important Things to Know About Arc Flash PPE Programs
    View This Issue