Fiery, Metal-Melting Explosions at NSA Data Center Stump Investigators
By Dan Kedmey Oct. 08, 2013
The NSA’s new data-storage center in Utah has suffered a series of mysterious meltdowns in the past year.
Officials told the Wall Street Journal that 10 fiery explosions, known as arc-fault failures, have ripped apart machinery, melted metal and destroyed circuits. The repeated meltdowns have delayed the opening of the one-million square foot facility by 12 months.
Investigators have not yet determined the root cause of the electrical failures, nor have they agreed upon a solution that could prevent the explosions from happening again.
Electrical Issues Stall NSA Data Center Opening
By Brady McCombs and Paul Foy
|October 10, 2013 10:08AM|
Electrical problems have stalled the planned opening this fall of the nation’s new $1.7 billion epicenter for fighting global cyber threats — a Utah data center filled with super-powered computers designed to store massive amounts of classified information.
The Army Corps of Engineers discovered the problems during tests ahead of the scheduled Oct. 1 opening of the center south of Salt Lake City, on a National Guard base, Corps spokeswoman Diedra Cordell said in an emailed statement.
The facility will be the National Security Agency’s largest data storage center in the U.S., constantly using 65 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 33,000 houses. But what exactly will be happening there remains shrouded in mystery. There is no visible marker bearing the facility’s name and operator, and the NSA has been tight-lipped about what they’ll be doing there.
The Corps, which is in charge of construction, says experts are working to correct the electrical problems. Cordell did not provide details about the exact nature of the issue, or say if it has caused any major damage.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines acknowledged the problems in an email but declined to provide any more information.
“The failures that occurred during testing have been mitigated,” Vines said in a statement. “A project of this magnitude requires stringent management, oversight, and testing before the government accepts any building.”
The problems were first reported by the Wall Street Journal ( http://on.wsj.com/1bF9VUr).
NSA officials say the center will play a key role in the nation’s effort to protect national security networks, and allow U.S. authorities to monitor for potential cyber threats. The secrecy is necessary to protect classified information that is highly sought-after by foreign spies, said a former U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the program publicly.
Richard “Dickie” George, who retired from the NSA in 2011 after 40 years, says the facility isn’t nearly as mysterious as some think. The center only holds data, with NSA agents elsewhere combing through the information to understand how terrorist groups operate and who plays what roles. George calls it no more than a “big file cabinet” out West. (continued…)