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  1. Hardware
April 13, 2015

US blocks Intel from supplying Chinese supercomputer

Fears of nuclear developments led US gov to refuse Intel to sell its chips.

By Joao Lima

The US government has banned Intel from exporting thousands of chips to update the Chinese Tianhe-2 computer, fearing nuclear research could be done using the device.

The refusal to allow Intel to export the chips was taken after the Department of Commerce admitted to be concerned that nuclear research would be conducted by the Chinese government.

Generating a computational capacity of 33 petaflops, the Tianhe-2 uses as many as 80 thousand Intel Xeon chips.

The machine has been the world’s most powerful machine for the past 18 months, according to the Top 500 organisation that monitors supercomputers, and can do one quadrillion calculations per second.

Intel Xeon chips were part of a major upgrade program that would boost Tianhe-2’s capacities to 110 petaflops.

In a document the Department of Commerce stated that "NUDT has used U.S.-origin multicores, boards, and (co)processors to produce the TianHe-1A and TianHe-2 supercomputers located at the National Supercomputing Centres in Changsha, Guangzhou, and Tianjin. The TianHe-1A and TianHe-2 supercomputers are believed to be used in nuclear explosive activities"

The same paper stated that the machines do not line up with the country’s strategies, "acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States".

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In a statement given to the IDG news wire, the chipmaker said: "Intel complied with the notification and applied for the licence, which was denied. We are in compliance with the US law."

The action by the US government is believed to have accelerated China’s venture within the chip making sector.

On a different note, this week Intel has signed a deal with the US to build Aurora supercomputer at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois predicted to peak performance of 180 petaflops.

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