Intel and Dell Partner with UK Atomic Energy Authority on Fusion Power Plant Digital Twin

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Intel and Dell Technologies have announced they are working with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Cambridge Open Zettascale Lab plan to build a digital twin of the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) prototype fusion power plant. The UKAEA will utilize the lab’s Dell supercomputer to streamline the development and delivery of fusion energy to the grid in the 2040s.

The system is based on Dell PowerEdge servers and Intel technologies, including 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors, distributed asynchronous object storage (DAOS) and oneAPI tools. The UKAEA said the engineering designs of STEP, located in Nottinghamshire, will be developed in an immersive virtual industrial metaverse — a digital twin.  The collaboration will explore how exascale-class supercomputers and AI with predictive capabilities can deliver a digital twin of the STEP design.

By working within the digital twin’s modeling and simulation capabilities, the UKAEA team can adapt their design as new information becomes available and technologies are developed.

Intel said that oneAPI, which allows developers to use a single codebase to deploy applications across multiple architectures, is designed to address a major inhibitor of simulation functionality and performance: code portability. Intel’s oneAPI tools and AI frameworks support deep learning and molecular dynamics. As a oneAPI Center of Excellence, the Cambridge Open Zettascale Lab plans to broaden this application set to include engineering, fusion materials and plasma simulation.

Storage speed is another potential roadblock in fusion research, which involves large simulations running across thousands of GPU nodes and then transferring large amounts of data for fast post-simulation analysis. A single plasma turbulence simulation can output hundreds of petabytes of data in a short window. Intel DAOS is an open source, software-defined, scale-out object store containers for HPC applications. For fusion research, it is designed for rapid analysis and calculations.

Rendering of the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production prototype fusion power plant.

Fusion energy has the potential to provide near limitless and highly sustainable energy, but a functioning fusion power plant that can deliver energy to the grid is still years away. Engineering a new breed of power plant requires advanced tools and massive amounts of modeling and simulations. As they work toward the functioning fusion facility, UKAEA and the Cambridge Open Zettascale Lab will use supercomputing and a “digital twin,” or prototype, of the STEP machine design to accelerate engineering and help future-proof progress, even as things evolve.

“Planning for the commercialization of fusion power requires organizations like UKAEA to utilize extreme amounts of computational resources and artificial intelligence for simulations,” said Adam Roe, Intel EMEA HPC technical director. “These HPC workloads may be performed using a variety of different architectures, which is why open software solutions that optimize performance needs can lend portability to code that isn’t available in closed, proprietary systems. Overall, advanced hardware and software can make the journey to commercial fusion power lower risk and accelerated – a key benefit on the path to sustainable energy.”

“I firmly believe the future of sustainable energy will rely upon supercomputing,” said Rob Akers, director of Computing Programmes, UKAEA. “The world has an urgent need to provide energy security and combat climate change. This is a journey we must embark upon together, delivering access and capability to all those who will be instrumental in delivering commercial fusion energy.”