Bull sells into UK nuke agency [UPDATED]

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Just before ISC, French HPC company Bull announced a big installation for the French Atomic Energy Authority; at 1.25 theoretical PFLOPS, it is the largest machine in Europe, and the largest that Bull has built to date.

But that machine was sold on Bull’s home turf, where a lot of its business is centered. The company also announced this week that its made a sale to the UK nuke folks, a significant move not only because it is a foreign sale, but also because it is a foreign sale into a strategic part of the UK government’s war apparatus (which countries tend to be very touchy about)

Bull logoBull has announced that it has won the contract to provide the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) with two large scale capacity supercomputer systems, with a combined peak performance in excess of 75 TeraFlops (trillions of calculations per second). The systems chosen are the latest bullx supercomputers launched by Bull last year, which are the first European-designed supercomputers to be totally dedicated to Extreme Computing.

Commenting on the contract with Bull Dr Graeme Nicholson, AWE’s Director Science and Technology Programme said: “This investment will enable us to make advances on a range of scientific fronts – including weapon physics, materials science and engineering – which will underpin our continued ability to underwrite the safety and effectiveness of the Trident warhead in the Comprehensive Test Ban era.”

Note that these could be 15 PLFOPS machines…the press material only says “in excess of 75 TF,” and I’d be very (very) surprised if that was a tight bound because of the highly sensitive nature of what the AWE does. [UPDATE: An alert reader pointed out that there are two new AWE machines from Bull on the latest list, and they are about 75 TF together; looks like that may have been a pretty good bound.]

According to the company, the first of these two systems is already installed and running, and the second is scheduled to come on line in “late spring,” which means in the next couple weeks.


  1. Shame all that computing capacity is being used to design weapons of mass destruction rather than do something which might perform a benefit to humanity, such as modelling climate change impacts.

  2. John West says

    You shouldn’t construct your view of what supercomputers are used for from one or two press releases; the total capacity dedicated to weapons programs is small relative to all other uses, including climate change but also including drug design, crash test safety, logistics management, and environmental remediation. Although I will point out that that computational capability you are complaining about being used for stockpile management prevents nations from having to conduct live tests: not firing off a nuke is just about as green a use as there is.