Meltdowns Prevent Use of NSA’s Utah Data Center

The National Security Agency planned to have their new Bluffdale, Utah data center online before the beginning of October. However, severe electrical issues have halted those plans in their tracks.

“A Flash of Lightning”
The Wall Street Journal reported that there have been 10 meltdowns in just over a year at the NSA’s facility, the most recent of which occurred on Sept. 25. One project official told the news outlet that the electrical issues are described as arc fault failures, which resemble “a flash of lightning inside a 2-foot box.” The electrical surges result in fiery blasts, causing circuits to fail and metal components to melt.

Because of the arc fault failure explosions, thousands of dollars worth of equipment has been destroyed, according to the Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, one project official said NSA personnel had planned to turn on computers at the data center this week, only to be waylaid by electrical issues.

Currently, the cause of the surges is being investigated. However, officials disagree about whether system repairs will correct the problem. Forbes stated the cause could be due to the NSA rushing to complete the project and hastening through the normal data center design and construction quality protocols.

A source familiar with the construction who remained anonymous told Forbes that personnel placed electrical appliances too close together, resulting in the arc fault failures called “kill zones.”

“They used wiring that’s not adequate to the task,” the source told Forbes. “We all talked about the fact that it wasn’t going to work.”

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told the Wall Street Journal that issues that occurred during the testing process have been alleviated {fixed? repaired?}.

“A project of this magnitude requires stringent management, oversight, and testing before the government accepts any building,” Vines told the Journal.

Forbes reported that the Army Corps of Engineers’ “Tiger Team” was sent to the NSA data center over the summer to diagnose the problem, but were unsuccessful. However, the group is still working to identify the issue, and team representatives told the Wall Street Journal that the center must be “completely reliable” before the NSA can open up shop there.

Zettabytes of Data
While it is unclear how much data the facility will handle, experts predict the center will store exabytes or zettabytes of data, according to the Wall Street Journal. To understand exactly how much data will be housed here, an exabyte is approximately 100,000 times larger than all the printed material in the Library of Congress, and a zettabyte is 1,000 times that size.

The data center design includes more than 1 million square feet of space on a 247-acre plot of land, making it one of the government’s biggest construction projects, according to the Wall Street Journal. Price estimates peg construction costs at $1.4 billion, which does not include computers and other internal technology components. Additionally, the facility reportedly uses 65 megawatts of power, the same amount used to light up a 20,000-resident city. Project officials said that it will cost more than $1 million per month to keep the data center’s electricity up and running once the arc failures are corrected.

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