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[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 55, No. 12           June 13, 2003
[Sandia National Laboratories]

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-0165    ||   Livermore, California 94550-0969
Tonopah, Nevada; Nevada Test Site; Amarillo, Texas

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Xyce is nice: Sandia software gains notice Six-lab nuclear energy action plan has Sandia as systems integrator Sandia-Kurchatov collaboration begins with small steps Sandia Science and Technology Park marks five years of growth; optimistic about next five years



Sandia's homegrown Xyce software gains notice in world of modeling electrical circuits

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By Chris Burroughs

Sandia's homegrown four-year-old Xyce(tm) software is gaining notice in the world of modeling electrical circuits.

Late last month the electric circuit simulation code ran a 14,336,000-analog-device problem, using 1,024 processors of Lawrence Livermore's ASCI (Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative) White IBM computer. It is believed to be the largest analog circuit simulation ever done, and it was conducted on the largest number of concurrent processors ever used for circuit simulation.

The accomplishment was part of a scaling study in support of an ASCI milestone, and the developers are convinced they can build a simulation code that can model even faster.

An interdisciplinary team from Depts. 9233, 8205, and 1734 began work on Xyce in July 1999 to develop an electrical modeling code that better meets Sandia's needs. Currently, Sandia's circuit simulation community relies mainly on a commercial code, PSpice (note the rhyming with Xyce), which operates sequentially, and hence, not as rapidly for large-scale circuit problems. Furthermore, Xyce gives Sandia the ability to simulate circuit problems of unprecedented size.

"We had our specific needs -- like some of our device models have to support environmental effects [e.g., radiation], which no commercial circuit simulator supports," says Scott Hutchinson (9233), technical lead. "Also we needed a simulation code that ran faster."

The team determined that SPICE-based codes with enhancements could not meet Sandia's needs for parallel computing.

So they created Xyce, a parallel code in the most general sense of the phrase -- a message-passing parallel implementation that allows it to run efficiently on the widest possible number of computing platforms, including serial, shared-memory, and distributed-memory parallel as well as heterogeneous platforms. Also the team paid careful attention to the specific nature of circuit simulation problems to ensure that the optimal parallel efficiency is achieved even as the numbers of processors grow.

"Xyce is still maturing and is in the early development stage" says Sudip Dosanjh, Manager of Computational Science Dept. 9233. His department consists of experts in algorithms, numerical methods, code development, and electrical engineering.

Version 1.0 was first released in October 2002. A second version, 1.1, was released last week. Xyce 2.0 will be released in October 2003. Since version 1.0, Scott and his team have made 68 "bug-fixes" and enhancements.

Xyce provides a modern, in-house simulation tool on which to build future enhancements targeted at the design and analysis needs of

Sandia's electrical design community.

The fast modeling of electrical circuits is useful in two ways. First, it gives engineers a leg up in designing electrical devices. They can start with an initial design created through the simulation that they can build and improve on -- saving a lot of time in the design phase. It will provide a circuit-modeling tool capable of running efficiently on high-performance parallel computers using state-of-the-art algorithms. Second, modeling can be used to analyze existing circuits to determine if they are functioning correctly. Currently there are 10 Sandia users of Xyce.

Xyce is the main code of a larger project, High Performance Electrical Modeling Simulation (HPEMS), funded primarily by DOE's ASCI Application program. Among HPEMS' goals are to support Sandia-specific circuit models, include a consistent designer interface, produce an efficient parallel implementation on a variety of architectures, and implement improved, scalable algorithms that address SPICE convergence problems.

"Xyce has been a great collaboration between Centers 1700, 9200, and 8200," says Steve Wix, project leader for HPEMS. "Centers 1700 and 8200 provide expertise in device models and applications while 9200 has provided expertise in numerical methods and computational science."

To illustrate how far electrical circuit computing has come in four years, Scott compared what could be done then and what can be done now.

"In 1999 it took 233 hours to simulate 79 circuits on a Pentium multiplier," Scott says. "Today on the faster hardware and running parallel it would take one hour. - - Chris Burroughs

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Six-lab nuclear energy action plan has Sandia as systems integrator

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By Will Keener

A joint presentation by six DOE laboratory directors in May to Deputy Secretary of Energy Kyle McSlarrow has resulted in a step ahead for a Nuclear Energy action plan, proposed by the group. The plan calls for activities on the part of all six laboratories, with Sandia acting in an integrating capacity, reports Sandia President C. Paul Robinson.

"Basically, we found that we were pushing on an open door," says Paul of the meeting. "The Administration's Energy Plan already emphasizes nuclear energy (based on its competitive costs and zero carbon emissions) and the move to a hydrogen economy for transportation fuels. Our proposal integrates these two."

The action plan suggests an emphasis in some higher temperature reactors that can efficiently produce hydrogen, Paul explains. "Thus we can speed the time to transition." McSlarrow told the gathered group of laboratory representatives that the White House may also want to review the ideas in the action plan.

Last summer Sandia joined with Argonne, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental, Oak Ridge, Lawrence Livermore, and Los Alamos national laboratories in signing an agreement aimed at enabling nuclear power to play a global role in the 21st century. The action plan, which sets out specific dates and goals, is a product of that agreement.

"Sandia has offered to the rest of the labs our experience and expertise as 'system integrators' for this effort," Paul says. Each lab in the partnership has expertise in particular areas of nuclear technology that it will bring to the table, Paul adds, "but we thought that what was most needed was an impartial system integrator that could serve as the honest broker to build the pieces -- only as appropriate -- into a system solution."

The other lab directors have accepted Sandia's proposal to serve in this role, Paul reports.

The action plan outlines three major goals to achieve the vision of global expansion of nuclear energy systems:

The laboratory directors told McSlarrow that a number of near-term actions are needed to enable the vision. These include:

The third (nuclear proliferation) goal in the action plan presents a key opportunity for Sandia, says Tom Sanders, Manager of Global Nuclear Futures Dept. 6020. "By developing a smart fuel cycle, we can take advantage of advanced manufacturing, robotics, and automation to create additional data at a nuclear plant that can assess the intent of the facility in terms of uses of materials," Tom says.

Recognizing this, Sandia embarked on two Laboratory Directed Research and Development projects two years ago to develop risk-informed proliferation assessments and transparency systems for reactors, he adds.

The price tag for the 2003 to 2008 action plan is less than $10 billion. "The benefits of this investment to US energy security, environmental quality, and national security are substantial," the report concludes. "The directors of the DOE national laboratories remain fully committed to supporting the accomplishment of these goals." - - Will Keener

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Sandia-Kurchatov collaboration begins with small steps

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By Will Keener

Sandia researchers and their Russian counterparts are taking the first small steps under a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Labs and the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow. The ultimate goal of these important first steps is to create a world that is more environmentally sustainable, economically prosperous, and politically stable.

For the researchers involved, the key to reaching this lofty pinnacle is a viable energy underpinning. "Energy is the key," says Bob Eagan (6000), Sandia's VP for Energy, Information, and Infrastructure Surety. "It is woven into the fabric of our global infrastructure." To make a beginning with the Russians, the two labs must be able to help decision makers better understand their energy and environmental options and trade-offs, Bob says. A key piece of that infrastructure is a nuclear fuel cycle that minimizes waste and the likelihood of weapons proliferation at the same time.

The agreement came about following a summit meeting involving US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2002. Experts from Sandia and Kurchatov produced two white papers following the summit outlining mutual goals for expanding the use of nuclear power.

Proposing similar ideas

With the MOU now in place, the next step will be to expand the partnership to include multilab groups in the US and Russia -- an effort that is now also beginning. (See "Six-Lab Nuclear Energy Plan..." on page 1.) An official kickoff visit to Sandia by Evgeny P. Velikhov, President of the

Kurchatov Institute, earlier this year brought a number of MOU project leaders together in a video conference.

"The Kurchatov Institute has been proposing similar ideas and looking forward to developing technology that could address the burgeoning growth in electric power demand from the under-developed nations," says Sandia President C. Paul Robinson. "Thus it appeared that joint collaborations would be an excellent idea and would also further the administration's emphasis on regularizing US relationships with Russia -- as allies rather than adversaries."

A potential "storm cloud" on the horizon could impact some of the Sandia-Kurchatov work, warns Paul. Russia's continuing plans to supply a reactor to Iran could put some of the nuclear energy aspects of the collaboration in jeopardy. The US view of Iran's efforts to secure a nuclear reactor is that the nation's primary goal is proliferation of weapons rather than power generation, Paul says. (Iran's price for oil is currently less than $1 per barrel delivered, a fact that would argue the nation has little need for a nuclear power reactor at present.)

It is likely that economic modeling, fusion, and "back end" joint projects could continue even if direct nuclear energy collaborations do not, however. Here is a Lab News summary of some of the work currently under way:

Energy/Economy/Environment

Sandia Chief Economist Arnie Baker (6010) initially met several of his Kurchatov counterparts last year during a visit in Moscow. "We've exchanged initial concepts and held our first modeling video conference. We're now in the process of setting up technical meetings back in Moscow to brainstorm alternative approaches and begin to flesh out a work program," he says. Initially, Arnie expects the focus of model-building efforts to be on Russia, rather than the broader Commonwealth of Independent States. "There's a lot going on there and they need tools to make better-informed strate\gic energy/economic/environmental decisions."

An example is the question of what direction Russia should take in building new power plants. Coal? Natural gas? Nuclear? During his visit to Albuquerque, Velikhov told Sandia researchers that Russian agencies "need to have a real understanding of why nuclear power is so important."

By extending Sandia-developed models to Russia and other former Soviet republics, it's possible to demonstrate cost trade-offs of the different power plant options, Arnie says. "It's very easy to run 'what if' scenarios that policy makers and industry executives readily grasp. And you can track the environmental emissions of the different types of plants."

Arnie ran the Sandia Global Energy Futures Model for Velikhov during his visit, generating a great deal of discussion. "Kurchatov has greenhouse and energy data," says Arnie. "They have knowledge of the power systems in Russia and detailed engineering models. Our knowledge base is in economic and engineering modeling, particularly high-level, strategic learning tools. Putting the two together would create something of real value for Russia and we could also use it to help other countries better see the value of nuclear power, relative to other energy and environmental options."

Pulsed Power Past and Present

Kurchatov has been involved in inertial confinement fusion efforts for more than three decades, says Sandia Senior Scientist Craig Olson (1600), the Labs' point for the fusion aspects of the agreement. "I first met my Kurchatov counterpart, Valentine Smirnoff, in the 1970s at the first BEAMS conference," says Craig. Several pulsed power z-pinch accelerators (such as Saturn and Z at Sandia, and Angara 5 in Russia) have produced outstanding results, and both laboratories are interested in experiments with the long-term goal of repetitive pulsed z-pinches for inertial fusion energy (IFE). Sandia is also working toward a larger z-pinch accelerator for demonstration of high fusion yield, as is Russia, says Craig. "There is exceptional interest and expertise in both the US and Russia to develop a strong collaboration to promote the rapid development of z-pinch IFE."

While much of the funding currently goes to magnetic fusion concepts, collaboration from Russian researchers could help to change the perceptions of funding groups in the future, Craig says. For now he is busy setting up video conferences with his counterparts in Moscow. In addition, the international BEAMS meetings offer another opportunity for collaboration. Smirnoff attended the 2002 meeting in Albuquerque and will host the 2004 session in St. Petersburg, Russia, says Craig.

Desalination in Nuclear Context

When Bob Eagan first discussed the agreement last year in Russia, he was pleasantly surprised by suggestion that desalination be considered a topic for collaboration. That's because Sandia has been working on desalination issues in a number of approaches, explains Peter Davies, Director of Sandia's Geoscience and Environment Center 6100.

"The Russians see this in the context that in addition to generating electricity, nuclear power is a source of energy for thermally driven desalination processes," he says. Sandia's work has involved a systems approach with other agencies that has resulted in a roadmap (Lab News, Feb. 21) defining a research and development path for desalination technologies through the year 2020. "The roadmap provides us a useful framework for engaging others," says Peter. "Right now we've identified counterparts [in Russia] but have not yet defined what we can do together."

Yucca Mountain 2?

Recycling of spent fuel in new, advanced reactors (referred to as Generation IV reactors) could eliminate the need for a second Yucca Mountain-type repository in this century, says John Kelly, manager of the Labs' Advanced Nuclear Energy Programs group (6406.) "Right now we expect Yucca Mountain to reach maximum capacity around 2030, and by 2010 we need to decide if we are going to start a Yucca Mountain 2 project. We think that research and development on advanced fuel cycles can lead to viable options that would significantly delay the need for a second repository."

Right now, other countries take spent fuel and extract the plutonium for reuse, John

says. "We want a fuel cycle that is more proliferation-resistant and produces less residual waste than is used in other countries."

Researchers can do this by developing a cycle to keep more difficult-to-handle actinides bound with the plutonium, making it less attractive for potential bomb-makers. "The current process is proven, however, and many countries aren't sure they want to spend the money to develop a different process and establish it as a new international standard. A new process could reduce waste destined for high-level repositories like Yucca Mountain by as much as 90 percent. It would require an integrated systems approach involving both advanced reactors and advanced separations technology," John says.

"What we'd like to do with our Russian counterparts is begin an information exchange activity to discuss our efforts and their efforts and

critique each other. That might help us avoid going down some dead-end paths." Such an information exchange and peer review could evolve as funding is developed, he adds.

Proliferation -- Quantifying Risk

Researchers from Sandia's Modeling and Analysis Dept. 6415 are also working to identify how different technologies in the fuel cycle impact the potential for the spread of weapons. Using a process called Risk Informed Proliferation Analysis (RIPA), which involves a detailed knowledge of the various processes and the risks associated with them, a Sandia team is calculating "proliferation scores" for the various activities.

If technologies have the impact of making weapon-grade nuclear materials more available -- thus making the creation of new weapons more likely -- the team will assign a lower score. If a technology or activity makes it less likely that additional nuclear weapons can be built, it will be judged more proliferation-resistant and assigned a higher score.

"The next step is to get a dynamic, real-time assessment of the proliferation risk," says Gary Rochau, department manager and team leader. Because the Kurchatov Institute is working along the same lines, the area is ideal for collaboration and benchmarking activities, he says. Using a systems analysis approach and the RIPA expert information to help determine "where you should be looking," a dynamic system would allow one country to look at another's nuclear power generating systems in real time and assess if the system is being operated in an acceptable manner.

With certain protocols, such a system could easily replace the kind of "independent verification" teams the world watched recently working in Iraq for the International Atomic Energy Agency. The system could protect a power plant's sensitive information but still provide processed data to indicate to others if the operations are within agreed upon limits, Gary explains.

Because of Russia's desire to export nuclear power systems on a "build, buy, and operate" basis for other nations, such systems could allay fears of weapon proliferation by allowing continual monitoring and help encourage, clean, cheap energy supplies in developing nations.

(Editor's note: Under the leadership of Dori Ellis, Director of International Security Center 5300, Sandia has a major role in the nonproliferation programs of the National Nuclear Security Administration, as described in earlier Lab News articles.)

Global hydrogen economy

Both Russia and the US have expressed interest in the concept of a hydrogen economy, with the separation of hydrogen accomplished in thermal chemical processes. Burning coal or natural gas could provide needed heat, but such burning produces carbon emissions. By using nuclear power to provide high temperatures or electrical energy needed for production, then hydrogen could be formed in a more environmentally friendly way.

"There are a lot of ways to make hydrogen for fuel," says Paul Pickard, Manager of Advanced Nuclear Concepts Dept. 6424. "All of them are difficult." Currently Sandia is working with researchers from General Atomics and the French government on a chemical approach that would make it easier to break hydrogen away from other compounds. The agreement with Kurchatov opens another avenue for exploration.

"There are a lot of materials, chemicals, and membrane technologies that could be useful in generating hydrogen," says Paul. "All these things are under discussion now." Also important will be the selection of specific reactor types for next-generation power plants, he says. Reactors that can "close" the fuel cycle, by minimizing waste, and couple to hydrogen production will be the goal.

Looking at the 'back end'

But, warns Dennis Berry, Director of Environmental Security Technology Center 6800, "any new reactor designed to produce hydrogen or desalinate water and produce power won't come to pass if we don't address 'back end' issues." The ability to dispose of reactor wastes, store radioactive materials, and determine the best way to recycle and get beneficial use from existing waste, along with transporting wastes by rail or highway to repositories, constitute these back-end issues, Dennis says. "You don't have a complete fuel cycle if you don't work these issues."

Right now these back-end issues -- some economic, some technical, some political -- have blocked the cycle's completion, Dennis says. His center has outlined a number of these issues to help decision makers with informed decisions. "The Russians have significant knowledge in these areas, and we need to work with them to sort through some of the new reactor concepts as they come forward." - - Will Keener

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Sandia Science and Technology Park marks five years of growth; optimistic about next five years

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Sandia Science and Technology Park: Five years and an empty field ago, it was just an idea. Today, in the wake of its inarguable success, it's hard to avoid the overused but sometimes useful cliché, "If you build it they will come."

Last week SSTP, the public/private economic/land development project just outside the Eubank gate, celebrated the fifth anniversary of its first groundbreaking. On a windy day in May 1998, EMCORE Photovoltaics, with just two Albuquerque-based employees at the time, turned dirt on its first facility at SSTP.

All of the "usual suspects" (as Sen. Jeff Bingaman on another occasion called the dedicated cadre of economic development boosters who always show up at groundbreakings) were there. High-falutin' words were spoken. Perhaps a high-five or two was exchanged. But despite lots of optimism, no one could be sure that the SSTP vision -- a vision originating with then-Sandia VP Dan Hartley (ret.) and embraced by community, business, and elected leaders and by Lockheed Martin -- would ever really materialize.

SSTP Executive Director Jackie Kerby-Moore, emceeing the anniversary celebration June 5, took special note of Dan's contributions. "He is truly the visionary behind this," she said. "Without his efforts and his leadership we wouldn't be here today."

Now, five years later, the answer is in. The numbers do the talking:

In a prepared statement, EMCORE Executive VP Scott Massie said: "Our products have been built on the technologies and intellectual properties developed at Sandia National Laboratories. We appreciate the strategic partnership with the Labs on technology commercialization. EMCORE is proud to be in Albuquerque and committed to expanding our future business in the Park."

Bob Sachs, president of SSTP tenant company Team Specialty Products, also in a prepared statement, called his company's decision to move to SSTP "one of the best business decisions" it has ever made.

"Since moving into the park two years ago," Sachs said, "our business has more than doubled in a time when most companies have been forced into reductions. We look forward to continued growth in the park."

SSTP Development Corp. Chairman Sherman McCorkle, who, along with Dan Hartley has been credited as an early SSTP visionary and evangelist, spoke at the anniversary celebration with fervor about the Park's success.

"It's amazing what happens when people of good will come together. . . . I don't think there's any doubt that in the next five years, there will be more jobs created on this 200 acres than on any other 200 acres in the State of New Mexico."

Assistant Land Office Commissioner Walter Bradley (representing State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons at the celebration) said the Park is turning people's expectations about the south end of Eubank on their heads.

"I challenge people," said Bradley, "before you prejudge [the SSTP area as a locale for a new business], open your eyes and see what's going on down here. You're going to see something that no one envisioned." Bradley said he believes public/private partnerships, as embodied by SSTP, are vital if the State of New Mexico is to prosper and grow its economy.

Representing Mayor Martin Chavez, City Chief Administrative Officer Jay Czar said, "Some of us are fortunate in that we get to be involved in magical projects like this. This is truly one of the most synergistic projects of its kind in the US."

Also on hand to lend remarks at the celebration were Sandia VPs Lenny Martinez (14000) and Al Romig (1000). Al said he expects to be back for another celebration before another five years goes by, this time to help EMCORE celebrate when it becomes a Fortune 500 company.

Other speakers included Paula Maes of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education, and Hong Hou, an EMCORE VP. -- Bill Murphy

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Last modified: June 12 , 2003

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