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U.S. Energy Plan Boosts Computing Power

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Monday one of the country's top priorities is to increase by a factor of 100 the computing capability available to support open scientific research. The effort, to be located at multiple facilities throughout the U.S., is known as the UltraScale Scientific Computing Capability.

Abraham made his comments during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington where he outlined the Department of Energy's Office of Science 20-year science facility plan, a roadmap for future scientific facilities to support the department's basic science and research missions.

The plan prioritizes new, major scientific facilities and upgrades to current facilities. The 28 facilities cover the range of science supported by the Office of Science, including fusion energy, materials science, biological and environmental science, high energy physics, nuclear physics and advanced scientific computation.

"This plan will be the cornerstone for the future of critical fields of science in America. These facilities will revolutionize science -- and society," said Abraham. "These facilities are needed to extend the frontiers of science, to pursue opportunities of enormous importance, and to maintain U.S. science primacy in the world. Investment in these facilities will yield extraordinary scientific breakthroughs."

Priority one, according to Abraham, is ITER, an international collaboration to build the first fusion science experiment capable of producing a self-sustaining fusion reaction, called a "burning plasma." Priority two is the UltraScale Scientific Computing Capability.

Four facilities tied for Priority three: the Joint Dark Energy Mission, a space-based probe, being considered in partnership with NASA, designed to understand "dark energy" which makes up more than 70 percent of the universe; the Linac Coherent Light Source that would provide laser-like radiation 10 billion times greater in power and brightness than any existing x-ray light source; a Protein Production and Tags Facility that would mass produce and characterize tens of thousands of proteins per year; and the Rare Isotope Accelerator that would be the world's most powerful research facility dedicated to producing and exploring new rare isotopes not found naturally on earth.

Six other facilities complete the near-term priorities. Eight facilities are identified as mid-term priorities and eight as far-term priorities.

"This list of 28 facilities outlines to an important extent the future of science in America -- and indeed the world," Abraham said. "These facilities cover the critical areas where discoveries can transform our energy future, boost economic productivity, transform our understanding of biology, and provide revolutionary new tools to deal with disease. They can make major and necessary contributions to national security and give us the ability to understand matter at its most fundamental level."

The Office of Science prepared the list over the last year with input from the scientific community, Department of Energy laboratories and advisory committees. Office of Science program managers first identified 46 facilities they believed are required for world scientific leadership over the next 20 years.

Six independent advisory committees reviewed the facilities, recommended 53 facilities for construction and assessed each according to two criteria: scientific importance and readiness for construction. Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, director of the Office of Science, prioritized the facilities across the scientific disciplines.

"At each stage along the process of discovery, America's economy grows stronger, with new tools to improve human health, generate new industries, improve our everyday lives, or boost efficiency -- the things that help give our nation its competitive edge," Abraham said. "And we need science to maintain that competitive edge, especially in high technology, which every day becomes more central to our economy."

While it is Energy's intent to give priority to these facilities, many steps need to occur prior to deciding whether and when to propose construction, including long-term budget estimates, project research and development, conceptual design work, engineering design work and scientific reviews.

In addition, potential funds for the facilities need to be identified within the Administration's budget priorities. Any proposed projects would be subject to congressional approval.

A number of the facilities would be located at Energy's national laboratories because they are upgrades to existing machines. The locations of the remaining facilities would be determined through site selections open to laboratories and universities.