updated 11/4/2004 7:43:31 PM ET 2004-11-05T00:43:31

A $100 million supercomputer being built to analyze the nation's nuclear stockpile has again set an unofficial performance record -- the second in just over a month.

IBM Corp.'s still-incomplete Blue Gene/L system, which will be installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, achieved a sustained performance of 70.72 trillion calculations per second using a standard test program, the Department of Energy said Thursday.

The world's current official leader, Japan's Earth Simulator, can sustain 35.86 trillion calculations per second using the same software.

The announcement is the latest in a series of claims leading up to next Tuesday's unveiling in Pittsburgh of the official list of the world's top computers.

Since 2002, much to the chagrin of some U.S. technology companies, the Japanese system has topped the list, which is maintained by several university computer scientists who run the Top500 project.

In September, IBM announced that the Blue Gene/L prototype had sustained speeds of 36 trillion calculations per second. Last week, NASA announced that a system built by Silicon Graphics Inc. had topped that by sustaining 42 trillion calculations per second.

Both Blue Gene and the NASA computers are still unfinished, and the performance of both is expected to improve as more microprocessors are added.

Blue Gene, for instance, is just a quarter of its final planned size. When finished, it will exceed Earth Simulator's performance by a factor of nine but require just a fraction of the electricity used by the Japanese machine.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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